Tag Archives: Bill Hader

IT: Chapter Two (2019)

14 Sep

The second part of a cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s famed horror novel, IT: Chapter Two takes place 27 years after the events from IT (2017), helmed again by director  Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman who collaborated on the first film. Set in the fictional town of Derry, we see the return of our characters from part one – this time as adults in their late 30’s – who formed a bond of friendship after discovering they each had shared traumatic experiences involving an evil clown capable of manifesting their inner fears and vulnerabilities. As it turns out, the evil known as Pennywise has returned again to Derry, and has begun preying on a new round of child victims.

After marking a massive box office success two years ago, it’s safe to say part 2 of the franchise was one of the most anticipated horror films of the year. Muschietti and Dauberman have doubled down on the same formula that apparently made the first film such a theatrical hit: horrific CGI scenes of various characters’ visions of pennywise fleshed out with brief moments of levity and a small romantic subplot. While the terror factor of 2017’s IT was surprisingly effective, children swearing and making sex jokes are no replacement for emotional beats that are essential to any given story, and I found part one to be mostly a disjointed mess. Unfortunately, part two copies the same incohesive story structure which no doubt will leave audiences who haven’t seen part one or who are unfamiliar with the source novel to speculate on many details left out of Stephen King’s mythical world of IT.

Though Pennywise certainly is just as frightening here as he was in the first film (thanks in part to a particularly gruesome set of CGI eyes and teeth), the real villain of It Chapter Two is the film’s editor.  Scenes come and go in the movie without much thought of why they should be there in the first place, and the tone jumps around so often from claustrophobic moments of body horror to comedy to nostalgia without giving time for the audience to embrace any single particular mood. This is made worse by the fact that every character who encounters Pennywise is given not only their own little hallucinogenic scenes of terror, but we also see those of their child counterparts, given to us in abrupt nonsensical flashbacks at pivotal moments in the movie.

The one string of consistency providing any sense of direction in this movie comes from the character Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) who is the only one to have stayed in Derry and has spent the last 27 year reading up on Pennywise’s mythology (he has been haunting Derry for over a millennia!) and obsessing over newspaper clippings from his latest victims. Unfortunately Mike is also the only prominent person of color in the movie, and the fact that his only sense of purpose is to share expository insight on the supernatural mysteries of Derry so that the rest of the white cast can defeat Pennywise harkens back to the magical negro archetype that has existed with genre films since their inception.

The silver lining here that makes It Chapter Two better than the first lies with its great ensemble cast. Not only do they look and feel the part of their child characters from part 1, but they embody a better sense of realism which helps ground the story and creates some emotional semblance to hang on to. The scenes between Beverly, Bill, and Ben (played by Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Jay Ryan respectively) are mostly solid, and the dialogue here avoids the clunky bits from the first movie where these characters got involved. Bill Hader and James Ransone not only provide a good dose of comic relief but also both give genuinely good performances – especially in the movie’s later half.

Still, a stellar cast isn’t enough to make It Chapter Two very memorable, and the movie is just too messy and scatterbrained to emulate the singular vision found in Stephen King’s book.

Bottom Line: Scares run amok, but much like its 2017 predecessor, It Chapter Two suffers too much from its own shoddy editing and patchy story elements to deliver much of anything substantial. 

Rating: 5.5/10

Film Recipe: Stranger Things + The Ring + Stand By Me 

Trainwreck (2015)

30 Aug

Director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, This Is 40) brings us his latest comedic adventure with the feminist-tainted Trainwreck. Written and starring comedian Amy Schumer, Trainwreck tells the story of Amy, an immature, self-obsessed, alcoholic trying to find love among a surplus of one-night stands.

After seeing her parent’s relationship fall apart, Amy decides the life of monogamy isn’t for her, and thus spends most of her nights with a variety of detached sexual encounters. “My rule is: never to spend the night”, she quips. A young journalist by trade, Amy is given a lead feature about a talented sport’s doctor’s (Bill Hader) recent work with the NBA. Of course the two end up falling for each other despite having complete character incompatibility, and now Amy must learn to grow up and face her fears of settling down with someone for the long term.

Schumer, mostly known for her work in stand-up comedy, makes a convincing enough entrance into the acting world and brings a lot life to her deadbeat and offensive character. Her and Hader create interesting on-screen chemistry, and the scenes featuring the couple getting to know each other are some of the film’s best.

Unfortunately, they don’t last long. Most of the film is too busy trying to negotiate between Apatow’s and Schumer’s differing comedic styles, resulting in a finished product where the jokes really don’t land and instead fall awkwardly flat on their face (sometimes literally). The supporting characters are lifeless and uninteresting comedic tropes; so dull not even the ensemble of Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, Brie Larson, and LeBron James (yes, you read that right) can provide relief. Useless cameos of Daniel Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, and Matthew Broderick, while good intended, feel uncomfortable and stale.

And then you face the issue of the story itself (or lack thereof) facing a whopping 2+ hour running time, which, (saying as how most audiences will predict how this thing plays out after the first 20 minutes) feels tragically unnecessary. Most of the film feels like a mishmash of random deleted scenes played with direct voiceover exposition; there is a particular lunch exchange between LeBron and Hader that goes on for way, wayyyyy too long. Little is done here to create an actual dramatic story, which is an absolute necessity when the comedy wears thin.

Bottom Line – More cringeworthy than comical, most of Trainwreck tries too hard to make you laugh by awkwardly combining jokes from Apatow and Schumer. 

Rating: 4/10 

Film Recipie: She’s Gotta Have It  – any artistic sensibilities + Space Jam