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Written by Tracy Letts; directed by Dexter Bullard
Performances through November 10, 2019
"It Chapter Two"Director: Andy MuschiettiCast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård
Since Summer’s season of horror has ended, Fall's anticipated shock surprises should have been around the corner all the way into Halloween. Yet, “It Chapter Two” won so many fans this September, that it outsold other horror movies and is still stirring fans of the Losers Club, the kids featured as the survivors in the first “It.” Now they aren't kids anymore, and “It Chapter Two” delivers memorable scares as a terrific companion to the previous film.
While “It Chapter Two” offered enough moments of fright and shock to serve up the scares, there was more to my experience of the film. Enhanced by the roller coaster ride of the Regal’s 42nd Street E-Walk Cinema’s 4DX screening room, seeing this movie provided a perfect opportunity to try out a new style of motion picture-viewing. Using a technology owned and developed by a South Korea’s the CJ Group, 4DX, as their literature describes it, “allows a motion picture presentation to be augmented with environmental effects such as seat motion, wind, rain, lights, and scents along with the standard video and audio.”
Well, it did just that, almost stimulating even more terror thanks to a feeling of nearly falling out of my seat every few minutes. Both “Its” are directed by Andy Muschietti, written by Gary Dauberman and are based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel. Split into two sections 27 years apart from each other, the second is set in 2016, when evil Pennywise the Dancing Clown (again brilliantly rendered by actor Bill Skarsgård) returns to terrorize Derry, Maine. Now adults, the childhood friends who made up the Losers' Club — which defeated him those many years ago are forced back together. Gone their separate ways, they are still trying to recover from their first encounter. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon calls the others back home to make one final stand because he believes he’s found a way to fully defeat this seemingly supernatural monster who feeds on human fears. Though damaged by their past, the united Losers must conquer their fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise -- more powerful than ever — once and for all.
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean as the adult versions of the Losers' Club, it’s fun to see how they all compared to their childhood counterparts — played by Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles as the younger Losers.
Once “It Chapter Two” runs through its plethora of terrifying scenes, audiences start to get a sense of where Pennywise came from and what it really is. Then the film shifts into being more of science fiction thriller. Though the movie offers an internal logic to Pennywise torturous antics, it offers more answers than necessary.
But much like its predecessor, “It Chapter Two” garnered praise for the acting (particularly Hader, Skarsgård and Chastain) and faithfulness to King’s tome. Though more predictable shocks — at least compared to its predecessor — may have diminished the sequel a bit, it nonetheless make for perfectly horrific fare — whether viewed in that special screening space or not.
4K/UHDs of the Week
The Wizard of Oz
One of the all-time classics returns, in its 80th anniversary year, in ultra-high-def: so Dorothy and Toto’s fantastical trip to meet the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Wicked Witch, Munchkins and all the rest, look better than ever, especially when the movie famously switches from B&W Kansas to garishly colored Oz.
The bright hues of the land of Oz look spectacular in 4K, and the clarity and grain are even a substantial improvement on the excellent Blu-ray. The many extras include a commentary, The Making of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wizard of Oz Storybook (with Angela Lansbury), featurettes, audio-only/singalong tracks and a 1950 radio broadcast.
This 1988 “odd couple” buddy-cop movie pairs Jim Belushi and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Chicago and Russian detectives tracking down a Soviet drug kingpin who also is responsible for the murder of Belushi’s partner. It’s hard to believe Walter Hill directed this; even the chases and gun-fighting sequences have an offhand feel, not reminiscent at all of the hard-hitting Hill of Southern Comfort, 48 Hours and even Johnny Handsome.
This was the first Hollywood movie to be shot in Red Square; that verisimilitude doesn’t help, and neither do supporting actors like Laurence Fishburne, Ed O’Ross, Peter Boyle and Gina Gershon. The 4K transfer looks impressive; extras are several featurettes.
Blu-rays of the Week
A Cinderella Story—Christmas Wish
This sweet-natured holiday story might lean too heavily on treacle in its depiction of a modern-day young woman with musical aspirations who falls in love with a rich “prince” while her stepmom and stepsisters try and sabotage her life.
But the charming leads, Laura Marano and Gregg Sulkin, mitigate the overbearing silliness, and the result is a perfectly harmless, even fresh Christmas movie. It looks fine on Blu; extras are featurettes about the film’s “look” and music.
The Fearless Vampire Killers…or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck
In Roman Polanski’s misbegotten 1966 horror movie-cum-spoof, the director himself plays one of two hunters looking for vampires in 19th century Transylvania—which they find, of course.
Despite Polanski’s usual precise directing, a varied visual palette and tongue-in-cheek acting from Jack MacGowan, Sharon Tate (Polanski’s future wife) and even Polanski, the movie recycles flimsy scary/comic ideas for 107 minutes to diminishing returns. The film looks sumptuous on Blu; extras are an alternate opening, 10-minute archival featurette and on-set making-of.
The Return of Martin Guerre
(Cohen Film Collection)
Daniel Vigne’s 1982 arthouse smash is an old-fashioned and intelligent entertainment based on a true 16th century case of stolen identity, ending with a lengthy, superbly calculated trial sequence.
In the leads, Gerard Depardieu and the astonishing Nathalie Baye have never been better, and Vigne—whose lone international success this was—realistically dramatizes a functioning French society in the 1500s, with its patriarchal and religious structure and a crude sense of justice. Cohen’s new hi-def transfer looks strikingly good; lone extra is a new Baye interview.
The Swan Princess—25th Anniversary
This 1994 animated film was never as huge as the many Disney films that came out around that time—Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King—but its sappy romance has its adherents, and the bright animation and a handful of tolerable tunes retain our interest throughout.
The voice cast—John Cleese, Sandy Duncan, Jack Palance, Steven Wright and Michelle Nicastro (who sadly died in 2010 at age 50)—is also superior, keeping the laughs and romance on target. The film looks lovely on Blu; extras include updated and archival making-of featurettes.
This tone-deaf blackly comic thriller pits its protagonist—a young woman (Amanda Crew) who loses her job and her boyfriend and decides to spend time away from the big city—against a widower (Robert Patrick) from whom she rents a room. Soon, she finds herself in a life-or-death situation when she discovers what he is up to.
Writer-director Richard Bates Jr.’s heavyhanded approach is, well, tone-deaf: the result, even with the charming and gifted Crew in the lead, is a forgettable attempt to graft humor and horror. The film looks good on Blu; lone extra is a making-of featurette.
DVD of the Week
Them That Follow
This intermittently unsettling but often inert thriller is set in a Pentecostal congregation that uses snake wrangling (!) to prove one’s innocence or guilt, as writers-directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s interesting if unoriginal plot idea—the pastor’s daughter, pregnant and unmarried, centers a love triangle leading to an ugly outcome—is too slender to carry an entire feature.
At least there’s a plethora of convincing performances, especially by Alice Englert as the young woman, Walton Goggins as her pastor father and Olivia Colman as the perfectly named church elder Sister Slaughter. Extras are cast interviews.
CDs of the Week
Schumann—Symphonies 2 and 4
Bruckner—Symphony No. 6
These discs demonstrate the versatility of the London Symphony Orchestra’s world-class musicians in two styles of Romantic music led by two extraordinary conductors. John Eliot Gardiner leads them through two of Robert Schumann’s glorious symphonies (the second and, in its original version, the fourth) and the enticing overture to his opera Genoveva. This music runs in Gardiner’s bones, and the orchestra follows suit, tautly stretching these marvels of the symphonic form to the breaking point.
Conversely, Simon Rattle teams with the ensemble for a dazzling reading of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6. I’m no Bruckner fan, but everything I associate with his symphonies—gargantuan structures, glacial slowness, repetition—doesn’t apply here thanks to Rattle’s sprightly pace and the almost light touch of the musicians in response.
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