It: Chapter Two (2019)
Written by Gary Dauberman
Directed by Andy Muschietti
I was never a massive fan of the first film in this duo. It is a decent horror flick, with lots of mystery and some genuinely scary moments, helped by featuring a cast of children, those who believe in horror more easily and are the most vulnerable to it. Right away, I want to say I did not like this sequel and I think it comes down the absence of Cary Fukanaga’s involvement. Fukunaga had initially been set to write and direct It but left the project when it became clear that Warner Bros. didn’t appreciate his creative vision. His script was tossed into the mixer with a new writer’s ideas, and thus we ended up with the 2017 hit. I tracked down a draft of Fukunaga’s original screenplay and read it two years ago and wish we could have that vision of the Stephen King novel on screen.
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Pet Sematary (2019)
Written by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler
Directed by Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
It’s hard to pinpoint where the nostalgia begins, but Stephen King’s current film renaissance started somewhere between the homage of Stranger Things Season One and the recent IT adaptation. One of the remakes it has led to is this recent Pet Sematary film, which is just as much taking on the novel as it is reworking the 1989 Mary Lambert film. The book and original movie have found an essential place in the hearts and minds of the general public and especially horror/King friends. I wonder what the long-time fans think of this picture and its decisions to change and not change certain elements.
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Woman at War (2018)
Written by Benedikt Erlingsson and Ólafur Egilsson
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson
One of the biggest challenges of modernity is figuring out how to live a life while still fighting against an increasingly insidious and destructive system that is breaking down our environment. It’s becoming impossible to deny that the planet is under extreme duress and that environmental collapse is imminent in the next few decades if drastic changes aren’t implemented soon. How do we function in our jobs, with our families, and as part of communities while this grim specter of species doom hangs over our heads? Halla is a woman who has taken the defense of the environment to an extreme but now faces a choice that challenges who she has become.
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Song for the Unraveling of the World: Stories by Brian Evenson
I have yet to read any of Brian Evenson’s novels, but I have enjoyed his short stories so far. His first collection, A Collapse of Horses was tremendous, but this volume is even better. He’s very confident in the work and can present multiple perspectives without ever being reductive about mental illness. There are quite a number of characters who could be considered mentally ill, but they never get presented as tropes. In “Room Tone” a young filmmaker is obsessed with getting the ambient noise of a filming space. However, the house he shot his movie in has a new owner that wants to be left alone. The director just can’t move past this and goes to extreme lengths to get his recording. In “Born Stillborn” a patient believes his psychiatrist is visiting him at night as he tries to go to sleep, asking the real questions. His daytime sessions are full of false questions with secret messages the doctor is sending. “Leaking Out” is a wonderfully simple horror tale about a drifter seeking refuge in an old house. The premise is classic, but the monster living in this place is nebulous and terrifying. “The Tower” is a dark fantasy apocalypse about what might be a vampire who comes to a scattered settlement of survivors. This story was one of my favorites and created such a fleshed-out world in so few strokes that it made me want to explore this world even more. “Lather of Flies is a mind-being horror story about a reclusive director’s lost film which goes to some fantastic places. This is one of the most substantial short story collections I’ve read this year, which says a lot because I’ve consumed some great ones.
Continue reading “Book Update – July-August 2019”
Sword of Trust (2019)
Written by Mike O’Brien & Lynn Shelton
Directed by Lynn Shelton
There’s a penchant these days for comedy films to rely on improvisation as a crutch, a means to extend the runtime by allowing actors to riff. The idea is that in editing the best takes will be cobbled together and thus there’s the comedy. This ignores the fact that actual good comedic movies are a synthesis of strong writing and actors who can interpret the material, adding their own personality to the picture. The most recent Ghostbusters film is an excellent example of this where the scripted bits are weak and the improv moments are most obviously filler. There are constant cuts to Kate MacKinnon hamming it up, seemingly unconnected to the events in the story. Improv does have a place in cinema, but it should be used sparingly and alongside a strong script, not as a way to stretch a weak story out.
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Written by Bong Joon-ho & Jin Won Han
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Bong Joon-ho is a filmmaker genuinely interested in issues of class and social structures. You can see that in his previous work, especially Snowpierce, Okja, and The Host, but there are elements of this in all his work. Parasite is the synthesis of all these ideas, a perfect summation of his thoughts on the class divide and human nature. This is a film made by a creator who is at the height of their confidence. Bong Joon-ho is clear-headed with a thorough understanding of the story they want to tell and the psychologies of the characters populating that narrative. It may sound grandiose to say this, but this is an example of about as close as we can get to having a perfect movie.
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