Spyder is a refreshingly weird throwback to 30's musicals, 40's morality, and the innocent rom com, all against a re-envisioned Indian version of Batman: The Dark Knight….no I’m not kidding —  and I kind of loved it.
  For those of you old enough to remember, think back to the old Audie Murphy or Gary Cooper Westerns.
For those too young for that image, think of Christopher Reeves as Superman rescuing Lois Lane from a falling helicopter. Gorgeous, clean cut, clean living, gentlemen good guys with altruistic courage who saunter onto any scene, beat up bad guys and barely muss their hair.
Holding onto that image, now conjure what a discount Dark Knight story might have looked like were it re-conceived as an Indian musical … and you have Spyder. See, our hero is a SPY – ergo Spyder. Geddit?
There is an undeniable charm to the entire proceedings and even at 2 and a half hours the movie kept my interest and consisted of entertainment in the way of good old fashioned diversion. No deep philosophical musings, no noir where the characters come in shades of gray. Good guys were very good and the bad guys didn’t just chew the scenery, they cackled Joker-like and leapt upon it like monkeys. It’s a universe where the hero’s raised eyebrow indicates the depth of his sincerity, a few heartfelt words or brave example rallies strangers to courage, and a final speech to the crowd sums up the lessons everyone should have learned during the course of the movie.
While very Batman-esque in his approach and intent, our hero, Shiva (Mahesh Babu), does not hide his identity, has no super powers and lives merely comfortably with his parents and younger brother in an upper middle class neighborhood. However, by virtue of his job he has access to all kinds of gizmos, cool toys and surveillance equipment. He’s a spy – a desk jockey who monitors communications: internet, cell phones, social media – to find the right triggers for the government to move on. But he has a personal agenda. Using a piggyback program of his own devising he ALSO monitors personal communiques – illegally – but with the intent of anticipating and intervening in bad events before they happen. Shown in a musical montage – complete with bevies of adoring costumed women – he thwarts a home invasion, prevents a bank robbery and intervenes before a young woman can hang herself – all while nattily dressed and moving like a runway model. He does everything but save a cat from a tree, strike the Superman pose or have light glint from his sparkling teeth.  Those are probably being saved for the sequel.
While doing his surreptitious surveillance he meets the requisite young woman of his dreams – Shalini (Rakul Preet Singh). Eavesdropping on a conversation with her girlfriend he discovers she has become curious about sex and decides to prevent her from making the terrible mistake of ruining her virtue.  The casually assumed morality alone won me over. It was quite refreshing from the brutally misused sexuality of our own country on display in even the most supposedly harmless of comedies and romances. Our hero follows her around for a few weeks and finds her beautiful, intelligent, forthright, and devout – and then the two of them engage in a dance routine to show how they feel for each other all the while denying any mutual attraction. This part is all very 1940's musical… had it taken place in India – replete with exotic colorful costumes, dozens of extras and Bollywood dance numbers and music by Harris Jayaraj.

THEN it gets weird. (To quote a line from Death Becomes Her — “NOW a warning?!”)

In a shift that is almost gear stripping from the lighthearted musical hero mode, there enters onto the scene a vicious serial killer, Sudlai (S.J. Surya), who murders and dismembers a friend of our hero and another young woman. A distraught Shiva, after encouragement from his father (Jayarakash)  makes it his mission, with a handful of his very clever geek friends,  to uncover the evil doer’s identity and bring him to justice, even at the risk of exposing his own unauthorized use of equipment.
Even during the dramatic portions it can seem a bit silly: the fight scenes where the hero’s fist doesn’t even come close to hitting the opponent are right out of the original Star Trek playbook. The survivability of our hero through falls and car crashes demonstrate the writer’s penchant for old B&W TV show heroes.  People run from danger by the Godzilla or Prometheus school of running away (in a straight line from an on coming boulder, instead of simply veering right or left). His hair is never mussed and he survives impacts and injuries that should have killed him. The morality is adorably right out of the 1940's rom coms – where the protagonist is sincerely anxious to protect the female lead’s virtue. The inclusion of the musical numbers was pulled right out of the old Busby Berkeley films – where crowds of choreographed and costumed dancers would  sweep across the screen with our intrepid hero and his love interest. The violence shown was cartoonish and any terrible events were Shakespearian in that they were not shown but intimated by a herald and others’ reactions to what they had seen.
  There are enough moving chases, tough guy fights, races against time, and beautifully clad women to keep the young teens entertained but nothing that would warp their sensibilities. Come to think of it I don’t even remember any bad language.
Some things to remember: this is an Indian movie and I’m sure some references and context were missed – at least by me. The acting is different as well. The cultural divide is reminiscent of the transition the silent film stars had to make when they went to talkies. In India these actors are highly praised and awarded. But their style, to my sensibilities, seemed to lean towards the old Perils of Pauline back-hand-on-forehead dramatic over-emoting. I’m not critiquing this, just advising caution before judging.
Another interesting feature is the subtitles. Of course, in an Indian produced movie shown in other countries there would have to be. BUT every now and again I felt like the Tardis Universal telepathic translator had kicked in because I was surprised by sporadic words and phrases of English naturally blended with the Tegulu and Tamil Indian dialects.
Then there are a ridiculous number of homages to Batman: Dark Knight. From the very premise of the hero’s intentions, to the bad guy’s use of the Scarecrow style mask, to the fact the bad guy is targeting a hospital, to the use of public communications’ devices to thwart the bad guy, to the way our hero gets away relatively unscathed with actions others would not either physically or legally, to the underestimation of the bad guy at a police station – all scream the writer-director’s  fan status towards the Dark Knight. No objection here. I think they made serviceable use of the material and gave it an interesting twist through an Indian filter.
So GO see this movie. Find where Spyder is playing on the Fandango website. The more I thought about Spyder the more it grew on me. Especially if you’re looking for something both different and familiar – kind of like a hamburger flavored with curry. Find it at your nearest theater’s special event, at an Indian cultural festival, on Amazon streaming when that happens, or even buy the DVD when it comes out. Bring no preconceived notions of what a movie format should be, turn off your brain a bit and just have a good time – India-style.


Kingsman-golden-circleSHORT TAKE:

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, successfully returns to the tongue-in-cheek spy world of Eggsey – the street tough turned posh spy.


Take one part Avengers superheroes, one part tongue in cheek graphic novel adaptation, throw in characters you’ve come to love from the first Kingsman,  add a touch of monomaniacal villain complete with homicidal robot dogs and a henchman with a cybernetic killer arm,  gizmos that would have made Q salivate, Zombieland-style comic book graphic violence, and blend with a Bond background – shaken not stirred – and you have Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

kingsman 1 posterI loved Kingsman: The Secret Service. 007 which skates right up to the edge of parody, complete with outrageous fight scenes, action which would have killed an ordinary human a dozen times over leave our heroes unscathed and not even sweaty. If you haven’t seen the first one, The Golden Circle can stand on its own. Background is provided when needed – sparse enough not to be a sledgehammer but enough to all make sense.

Kingsman does it right. They do NOT take themselves too seriously but still respect their characters and the world they inhabit. They always stay within the confines of the universe they create. They never cheat out a deus ex machine. Their problems are convoluted but their resolutions are based upon established clues.

characters kingsman 1The first Kingsman movie introduced the Kingsmen, a secret society of spies and specialists who defend the world from bad guys. Based in England their code names are taken from the Arthurian legends.harry & eggsey We also meet our hero – Eggsey – a diamond in the rough, son of a deceased  Kingsman who Harry (Colin Firth), veteran Kingsman (code named Galahad) sponsors as a candidate to become a Kingsman. We get to see the trials and are introduced to that film’s super-villain played by a lisping Samuel L Jackson.

eggseyThis time out we pick up the story in a very Bond-like dramatic fashion, with a bang – and an outlandish car chase, a cybernetic bad guy, bombs, and underwateran underwater hideout – as the now experienced Kingsman, Eggsey, thwarts a battalion of unknown henchman who try to assassinate him.

I really don’t want to give anything away because this a movie that is tremendous fun and full of surprises and delightful cameos. It deserves to be enjoyed unspoiled. But I will say that Golden Circle introduces us to an entire other group of Kingsmen – cousins you might say – to help combat a new world threatening megalomaniac.

merlin and eggseyTaron Egerton is, again, delightful as, Eggsey, the street-wise polished Eliza Doolittle of the Bond world. I was really happy to see Mark Strong reappear in one of the few good guys roles he’s ever done as Merlin, this Universe’s Q. princess tildeHanna Alstrom reprises her role as Princess Tilde, former damsel in distress, now Eggsey’s girlfriend. And then there’s……well, as Dr. Who’s River Song might caution —- Spoilers, which I am loathe to do here.statesmen

I highly recommend this movie to any ADULT who wants to see a fun, funny, action adventure, good old fashioned archly delivered Bond yarn. casino royaleFor anyone old enough to remember the David Niven 1967 outright parody of James Bond, Casino Royale, there is a small flavoring of that too, like a teensy bit of sugar in a spaghetti sauce, just to be sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

But ADULT is the key noun here. There are an exorbitant number of profanities. (I love the British and British movies, but I sometimes genuinely wonder if they know any  emotion filled adjective other than the F word). And there are an unfortunate number of blasphemies used as expletives. In addition there is at least one graphic, oddly and ultimately animated rather intimate physical scene.

robot dogs

There is a LOT of comic book violence including everything from explosions to dismemberment and an unnaturally clean Fargo homage.

But if you are in the mood and of  the disposition, if you enjoyed the first Kingsman then you will love this one too. There are plenty of familiar references but lots of new characters, innovations, bad guys and preposterous plot contrivances to keep even the most jaded adventure/spy thriller fan happy.

Kingsman, like Eggsey, may be the new kid on the block in terms of spy adventures, but this budding franchise, like our intrepid hero, has proven itself again. k-gcLike the first Kingsman outing, Golden Circle is both a really good time on the outlandish spy adventure train as well as often laugh out loud funny and just plain old, sometimes even silly, fun. But this ride is for big people only.


SHORT TAKE: Home Again is a journey of discovery by a grotesquely self-absorbed woman who learns….nothing.

LONG TAKE: Reese Witherspoon is Alice Kinney, Hollywood brat of a former sex symbol, Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen) and the now deceased but famous Fellini-ish director autre and philanderer John Kinney. Home Again is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of writers Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer, who collaborated to create both of the Steve Martin Father of the Brides, Alfie, The Parent Trap reboot and Ms. Meyers-Shyer herself. While their movies endured their marriage did not, Charles cruising through 3 marriages. So forgive me if I notice a resemblance between the protagonist, Alice, and the writer-director.


Alice Kinney abandons New York and her successful music producer husband Austen (Michael Sheen) of 15 years dragging their two young daughters away from their home and moves back to the Hollywood family home where she grew up – the scene of the crime, as it were – where she was raised to believe she was the point about which everyone else must pirouette. The separation is because……he works too much, presumably to keep her and their family in the style to which Ms Kinney assumes is hers by right of birth. Well, boo hoo for Ms. Kinney. By all accounts Austen doesn’t smoke, drink, gamble or cheat on her, is a gentle man in every sense of the word, a loving doting father and never are there flaws even hinted at that would justify Alice’s despicable exit from their married home. I have told my girls NEVER complain about a good man working hard for you or your family. It’s a shame her mother didn’t inculcate her with the same values.

After a nostaglic recap narration of the above (from her POV, of course) we open to said put-upon husband, despite being left, dutifully and sweetly calling to wish his egocentric wife a happy 40th birthday.

To celebrate, this paragon of motherhood dumps her children – not for the only time in the movie – to go out drinking and partying all night. Meanwhile a trio of young men are seeking their fortune as film makers – setting out with naught in their pockets and a handful of tenuous Hollywood connections. Director Harry (Pico Alexander), actor Teddy (Nat Wolff) and writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) are the bright spots in this film. A perfectly lovely comedy could have been made watching these three pretty adorable guys set out to achieve their life’s dream of making a movie. Instead they have the misfortune to meet Ms Kinney in the bar where she proceeds to allow Harry to seduce her. Amusingly enough Harry is too young to have drunk as much as he has and spends the night whoopsing instead of wooing. Fear not, though, they will eventually hop into bed during a series of nights where Alice dumps her kids off with Granny, the former movie star. The boys need a place to stay and Alice has room so Granny Lillian invites them to stay with Alice.

Acting out a narcissist’s dream we are supposed to believe that this 40 year old arm ornament can keep three men half her age and a cuckolded husband at her beck and call. Ignoring the fact that no sane woman would allow three strange men to stay, unsupervised, in a house with two daughters aged 11 and 6, the six of them set up housekeeping together. The boys cook, babysit, set up her website, chauffeur her children and provide her with…affection. Her husband humbly accepts her infidelity as part of the landscape and begs her to come back to him. In her dreams. Nothing against Witherspoon. She is a nice enough looking woman but it strains credibility beyond the breaking point to believe she could hold that much sway over these men without a magic wand or a secret potion.

I thought SURELY at some point she is going to notice that it takes these three men to equal her one husband. It’s like a loose retelling of the Wizard of Oz. Teddy is like the Tin Man, all heart – always concerned about how Alice will feel. George is the Cowardly Lion – encouraging Alice’s older daughter to participate in a play writing contest at school, yet afraid to accept a position as script doctor on a thriller until the little girl pushes him to do it. And Harry – he is the scarecrow who Alice falls for first. The brains and nerve of the operation, he keeps things moving forward.

As a side note, Mr. Alexander, who plays Harry, looks, sounds, moves, has quirky vocal inflections, and even a silhouette so much like a young Matthew Broderick, (except that Pico is about a foot taller than Matthew) that I am suspicious of the us.imdb.com web page on him which places his home country as Poland and his parents as no relation to Broderick’s parents. I’m going to continue to believe this is a made up biography to allow Matthew Broderick’s son, Pico, to establish himself on his own – that is until someone proves otherwise to me. (Only partly kidding.)

At the end of the movie, having turned down her husband’s plea to reconcile she sits, like a cobra surveying its choices of next meal, at a dinner where husband, former movie star mom, the two therapy-patients-in-the-making daughters, and the three young men all sit at table with her at the head, presiding like a queen bee. We end on her smiling in what is supposed to be beatific satisfaction, but to my mind looks reptilian. The ending song is Carole King’s “Home Again” but it should have been the screeching violins in the shower scene from Psycho.

I’m sure Ms. Meyers-Shyer thinks all this plausible from her POV in the Hollywood fantasy bubble in which she grew up and lives. But the reality is that a woman who leaves a perfectly good husband will NOT be living in a paid for mansion in Beverly Hills or sending her children to a posh Hollywood school. Heck she wouldn’t even be able to afford her partying at dozens of expensive bottles of wine a night. She would not find doting young men to cater to her every whim unless she paid them handsomely. Her children would be at serious risk of molestation or worse from her parade of strange men through her house. Child services would eventually be calling as her neglectful behavior of frequent drinking binges and promiscuity would get old very fast to her mother as the surrogate parent. Without any evidence of marketable skills she would be broke and waiting tables fairly quickly. And her husband would eventually challenge her for full custody of the children and probably remarry some one at least marginally less self-centered —one of the Kardashians perhaps.

I make no claim to know anything about Ms. Meyers-Shyer’s childhood beyond what is in this blog, which I read in us.imdb.com. But if all this sounds like a snake eating its own tail, I think it is. It’s a lot like the media doing stories about each other. They blather a lot, tell us nothing that isn’t obvious and demand everyone else see the world through their own narcissistic glasses which places their own desires at the center of a universe revolving around them.

And this is all relevant outside of a gossip column because….? Because women will see this movie and be led to believe it is glamorous to “follow your dream” by shucking your conventional home and husband, treat your children like pets you can move at will to further your own selfish agenda, and thrive. For many who might follow this foolish advice it will be too late before they realize they have wrecked their lives irreparably.

It’s not as though this movie didn’t have laughs. It did. The writing was often clever and the situations these people found themselves in was frequently amusing. But to lionize Alice Kinney’s abhorrent behavior is irresponsible in the extreme. Having lived through her own parents’ divorces one would think Ms. Meyers-Shyer would have known better. Apparently she didn’t learn anything from her personal journey of discovery either. I have no knowledge of or interest in Ms. Meyers-Shyer’s personal life but this situation is, pretty obviously, her warped dream-team fantasy world.

Home Again COULD have been about a woman striking out for “adventure” making a series of terrible mistakes and, like Dorothy, learns there’s no place like home. THAT would have been a movie worth seeing.

OR Ms. Meyers-Shyer could have stuck with the story of the three young men – the erzatz Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion, making their way through the Land of Oz that is Hollywood to find their own Emerald City. That could have made a charming, funny and memorable movie. Austen could have been the Wizard and Granny Lillian the Good Witch. The two young girls were given all the respect and maternal attention one would give to a pet anyway so they could sub for Toto. A Dorothy could have been found along the way. But the Wicked Witch in Home Again is pretty obviously Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s doppleganger – Alice Kinney.


Aron  SHORT TAKE: Brutally violent and deeply disturbing metaphor for poorly understood Judeo-Christian theology.

LONG TAKE: Having seen Darren Aronofsky’s unusual and creative but theologically sound Noah, I had hopes that the rumors Mother! was a Biblical metaphor would play out and that the grosteque brutality I had also heard tell about would be justified.

I was disappointed…and more than a little shocked. Rex Reed savaged it as the worst movie of the century, calling it a "delusional freak show…of pretentious twaddle." I wouldn’t go that far, but even reading two synopses in advance I found it hard to watch.

There have been a lot of movies which allege to "interpret" the Bible but which mishandle, mangle and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Bible in general and Judeo-Christian theology in particular. Some are Dogma, Paul, Michael, Legion, and pretty much anything written by Dan Brown. Some are merely misguided, some just foolish, and some viciously biased anti-Christian propaganda.

To give the benefit of the doubt to Mr. Aronofsky, and because of his Noah, I like to think Mother! falls under the sincerely meant but ignorantly misguided category. It is my understanding that Aronofsky attempted a metaphorical telling of the entire Bible, from pre-Genesis to the Apocalypse and, for a little while, he got it right.


The premise has an almost Thorton Wilder – Skin of Own Teeth feel and made me think it might work better as a play. The story is about a never named young Woman (Jennifer Lawrence), deeply in love with her also never named older Husband (Javier Bardem), living in the quiet pastoral countryside in a charmingly creaky mansion that might have, at one time, been a farm house or even minor plantation. The Husband is a once famous writer with block and both patiently wait for his inspiration to happen again.

Unexpected guests appear in the form of a sickly doctor who is a fan of the Husband’s work (Ed Harris) and his boozy prickly wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). The Woman wants them out but the Husband wants them to stay. The sons of the guests show up (played by real life brothers Domhnall and Brian Gleeson), fight over the coming inheritance and one kills the other then flees but not before demonstrating the mark of Cain on his forehead in his brother’s blood.

Up to this point I get it. The idyllic scene is Paradise. Bardem is the Creator whose very Words will fill their world with life. Lawrence is the paradigm for Mary. Harris and Pfeiffer are Adam and Eve – Harris brings death in the form of cigarette smoking and his own disease. Pfeiffer represents the vices of lust, uninhibited behavior, spite, and vengefulness. Their sons are, obviously, Cain and Abel. And up to this point, if you are prepared for this vision, it plays out as an interesting allegory. Had Aronofsky kept to the Biblical themes it might have been a great film. But it is at this point his theological symbology train goes off track.

God is love and desires obedience of His Creations but does not NEED love or adoration the way the Husband does. If Lawrence is playing Mary then she would not be clueless about the arrivals to her house, nor scream at "God" nor slap Him nor tell him no. As difficult as we humans all are, Mary is our adopted Mother. While she might be grieved at our condition, she would not try to bar us from her house – this is if we are keeping to the theology from which Aronofsky is supposedly dipping his ladle. And the linchpin of all Creation is that Mary told God "yes" in ultimate obedience to Him – "Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.'”  Luke 1:38.

By the end of this very odd film, Aronofsky’s Woman is more Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction and sexuality than Catholic Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus our Savior and Prince of Peace. By Aronofsky's own admission Lawrence's character is a "Mother Earth" figure, which druidic reference is completely inapproriate to a movie with all the Judeo-Christian themes and symbols. This inclusion alone exposes the glaring errors in Aronofsky's vision. 

Bardem is more like one of the Roman gods who craved worship and "needed" the love of others to thrive and be creative. In Christian theology, God is not the greatest among creations, yearning for approval and recognition, but is entirely outside of creation, being Creation Itself, and requires nothing from us – any more than a painter requires anything from his painting. But in Aronofsky’s misguided understanding of the Bible he seems to see God as suffering from creative entropy until he has one really good night with his wife and is greeted by a crowd of adoring fans. He is more admiration addicted rock star than God of Jacob, Joseph and Issac.

And, frankly, Aronofsky’s interpretation of the sacrifice of Jesus had me running to take a judiciously timed bathroom break. Again, Aronofsky's version is theologiocally unsound as Jesus was more than full age of consent and knew exactly what He was doing, what was being done to Him and why. He was not an unwilling infant martyr to a misguided divinity’s misplaced trust in his groupies.

Mother!, to borrow from a What Culture evaluation, is really only for film students and critics. It is a study in art house script writing which might have risen to masterpiece had Mr. Aronofsky had a firmer grasp of the theology he was supposedly analogizing. Instead it comes off as the violent musings of a gifted high school videographer who didn't pay enough attention in Bible study but only vaguely, and without context, remembered all the gory bits.


It, based on the Stephen King horror novel of the same name, in many ways carefully follows the book about outcast children being terrorized by a supernatural being – which is a shame, except where IT does not follow the book – which is a shame, resulting in a mediocre haunted house of a movie. But the kid actors were terrific and worth the viewing time.
First off, the scariest movie I ever saw was 1979's first Alien.
I remember watching Harry Dean Stanton rubbing his neck in the dripping storage room, looking for Jonesy the cat, KNOWING  the ALIEN was behind him and thinking: “This is so scary it’s not fun any more. This is actually physically painful.” Even breaking the suspension of disbelief did not prevent me from being absolutely terrified. So, to me, scary movies are judged by this ruler. On a scale of 1 to 10, Alien was a TWELVE! The movie IT is….meh…a 6.
It, to start with, is based on a book which is just too dad gummed LONG! At 1,135 pages IT is longer by over 300 pages than JK Rowling’s longest Harry Potter installment – The Order of the Phoenix! I suspect that, at the height of his fame, King had no one willing to tell him to STOOOOOOP!!!
Unlike Rowling, King tended to fill his pages with redundancies – variations on the same theme over and over. Pennywise the Clown manifests IT-self as things that scare the kids – clown, spider, leper, burned dead people, demonic balloons, buckets of blood –  jump scare, morph something familiar into something hideous, vomit graphically described gore, rinse (and that will take a LOT of soap and water – just sayin'), repeat.
The book covers the same territory twice – jumping back and forth from a group of children encountering a homicidal, inter-dimensional, supernatural, serial killing clown in Derry, Maine during 1958, then again having to tackle IT as adults 27 years later. The theme of this gargantuan novel was dealing with unresolved childhood traumas and IT was King’s vehicle for what should have been a Twilight Zone episode. Unfortunately IT was a bit like giving a fifth grade field trip the run of an otherwise empty Titanic. Too much room to move and not enough substance with which to fill the time.
  The self titled Loser’s Club – a group of children who bond in their outcast status – is terrorized by, then confronts Pennywise. The intrepid heroes are: Bill – stutterer, leader and brother of George, Pennywise’s first victim that we, the readers, know of; Bev – an abused but brave girl; Ben an overweight bookworm and newbie to the town; Mike – a black kid; Richie – “Trash”mouth and glasses-wearer; Eddie – hypochrondriac with a domineering single mother; and Stan – a Jewish kid. All are pursued and tormented by the resident psycho-in-training and Sheriff’s son Henry.  With repetition, what should have been frightening becomes merely gross out scenes of adolescent bad language, vomit, puke and sewer water………and that’s just the first half because then they will have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN as adults in the next movie!
In addition, the book featured a lot of profane, and sexually tinged profanities coming out of the mouths of 7 pre-adolescent mouths. Bad enough in a book, but when it is reiterated in a movie, one must realize that the film makers actually had pre-adolescent children SAYING these things, which is inherently a bit offensive.
What the movie leaves OUT creates the biggest flaw in the script. The worthy theme of the book is how a group of adults deals with unresolved childhood traumas. The book, while elephantine in size, DOES demonstrate this metaphorically well in how the children then the adults later confront their greatest fears by turning those fears into weapons against Pennywise.
In the climactic scenes of the confrontation with Pennywise – in the BOOK Bill successfully conquers his stutter by reciting a therapeutic poem: “He beats his fists against the post but still insists he sees the ghost” to thwart and even injure Pennywise. As Pennywise thrives on fear and despair, to confront someone who has overcome an obstacle is devastating to IT. This is clever and in keeping with the theme. However, the MOVIE merely resorts to your standard – join together and physically pummel the bad guy…thing….IT. Instead of adhering to the theme of overcoming what will bring you to despair – IT digressed to a  hackneyed unsatisfying fight scene.
The BOOK places the children in the 1950's where parents safely thought nothing of letting their children bike through town with little concern they will suffer more than a skinned knee. Setting these same children traveling alone in 1988, 7 years after Adam Walsh’ brutal murder, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
In addition, the feel of the characters – from their clothing to the bullies’ “rebel without a cause” attitudes, to the lack of cable on the TV – was ‘50's, but the stated date was 1988. While the ambience screamed ‘50's there were nods to the 1980's: New Kids on the Block and cell phones for example. And defining Mike as being an outcast because he is “homeschooled” instead of the original and obvious reason, that he was black, was just a spasm of political correctness gone awry. Mike’s race lends an abhorrent racial prejudice to bully Henry’s list of reprehensible character facets. Having Henry dislike a kid because he is homeschooled just does not carry the same impact.  Instead of convincing us IT was in 1988, these anachronistic details became merely awkward window dressing which weakened the structure of the movie by its distraction.
I understand the need to set the stage for the children in 1988 in order to place 2017 the necessary 27 years later. (Pennywise appears every 27 years to terrorize Derry.) But the environmental changes should have accommodated this chronological replacement from 1958 to 1988. It felt as though the filmmakers were either too Heck bent on sticking to the unnecessary details of the novel or too lazy to change them.
This all being said – the children actors were terrific. Kudos must be given to the bonding portions of the movie. Where this movie shines (no pun intended in referencing another King novel) is where Stand by Me (an excellent NON-horror King novel turned movie) succeeded. The kid actors in IT: Jaeden Lieberher (Bill), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), Sophia Lillis (Bev), Finn Wolfhard (Richie), Wyatt Oleff (Stan), Chosen Jacobs (Mike) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) all deserve commendation. Watching these kids was worth the price of admission. I only wish an entire movie about them as friends in a normal setting could have been made. I look forward to following their careers.
In brief: Where the movie SHOULD have changed, been truncated and condensed to limit the haunted house gimmicks IT instead reveled and immersed ITself in every book detail.  Where IT should have stayed faithful to the book IT did not. BUT the child actors were excellent and worth watching by themselves.
If you’re a big Stephen King fan you probably won’t be too disappointed in IT, though you will likely be frustrated that this is only the first half of the story. To be fair, there is a certain completion to this half and if they never make the second half this one CAN stand on ITs own. HOWEVER, I believe the wise decision should have been made to: condense the story down, keep the chronological back and forth pacing of the book between our protagonists as adults and as children, and pare the whole thing down to ONE movie. Had IT been so concentrated, IT could have been a much stronger outing instead of the watered down tale this is now and ITs second half is fated to be.
If IT weren't for the exceptional performances of the kids, you'd be better off rewatching Stand By Me. As IT is – don't bring anyone under 16 or with a weak stomach.



Rememory is a missed opportunity to make a better film – like an engine on low idle the writer tries to glide by with huge plot holes in an uninspired humorless unexceptional murder mystery with a flaccid surprise ending, wasting the considerable talents of both Peter Dinklage and the late Anton Yelchin in the latter’s second to last film performance.



I do not like Game of Thrones but I LOVE Peter Dinklage. When a show: throws a child out a window, kills the family dog, has a scene of graphic bloodshed including close up visuals of throat slitting and stabbing a pregnant woman, and arranges for Sean Bean to die ———- AGAIN!  then I’m not interested. Thankfully, I knew about these incidents before I ever invested any time in Game of Thrones so stayed away……except that even I enjoy Youtubes of scenes with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion. JRR Martin, the author and creator of the blood soaked GoT epic, is supposed to have wryly quipped: “If ‘they’ kill off Tyrion I’LL stop watching.”

Dinklage is a fine actor – at home in both comedy and drama, as a villain or as a hero. pixelAnd whether it’s a bizarre over-the-top retro gamer in Pixels, elfa touchy business executive in Elf or xmenthe evil genius in X-Men: Days of Future Past, I have never seen anything Dinklage has been in that I have not at least liked HIM. So when I tell you Rememory is just not very good, despite Dinklage being in the lead role, you can be assured I was biased in favor of the movie, but was sadly disappointed.

dinklage building modelsThe movie, premiering September 8, 2017 in theaters, is a murder mystery which is unrelentingly melancholic, humorless, without much surprise in its resolution and SLOOOOOW. It tries to be a moody set piece, but only succeeds in flirting with boredom. dunnThe premise is that a Dr. Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan) has invented a machine which can record, then display, memories taken directly from your brain, unfiltered by emotion or bias. The theory is, that being able to face – literally – painful memories, could help people come to terms with them and heal mentally.  Sam Bloom (Dinklage) stalks Dunn after attending a speech given by Dunn. The next day Dunn is found dead  in his office with bullet holes in his wall, cause of death a brain aneurysm. Bloom doesn’t believe it is of natural causes and, telling Dunn’s widow that Dunn once saved his life, Bloom goes on a quest to solve the crime.

The plot has some unfortunately preposterous turns – Bloom is able to easily find and steal the priceless prototype that everyone else is desperately searching for. He stalks Dunn, a noted scientist, without consequence or investigation by the police. He never becomes a suspect in the investigation despite his unusual presence in and around Dunn and his wife, before and after the mysterious death. And,


within the first few minutes of the movie he is driving drunk and becomes involved in a terrible accident, killing his brother, yet only a few years later he is unscathed and completely free, with no allusions to any jail time he would undoubtedly have served. Not since the unfortunate movie Looker have I seen a sci fi whose author has so casually ignored logic, and assumed that the audience will be too wowed by the premise to notice the ridiculous flaws in the story. The author of Rememory was wrong.

It’s not a bad movie, just one with a very weak script. The failings in Rememory are in the writing, not Dinklage’s performance. bloom and old manDinklage is convincing and measured in his character’s deep grief for his brother, puzzlement over the odd circumstances he eventually finds himself in, and his committment to the man to whom he believes he owes much.


Bloom is obsessed with Dunn because he desperately wants to know what his brother said during his last minutes. But the “big” reveal is not set up very well and what could have been an earned shock turned into a mild “Oh what a shame” moment.


It’s pretty obvious when we see the flashback for the first time the brother is just catatonically singing what they had been singing before the crash. So there’s no suspense there as Bloom claims he wants to know “the last thing his brother said”. When we find out there’s something more devastating he has been hiding from himself, it would have been so much more compelling if we could have looked back and noted the breadcrumbs that led to that moment. However, instead, what we get is an unanticipated “gotcha” which elicits more an emotional shrug than any depth to the plot.

It is especially sad that Rememory is not better because it includes one of the very last performances by Anton Yelchin – the young actor who played both

Chekov and Odd Thomas – so completely and well, but who died so tragically in a freak accident. yalchinYelchin plays Todd, a young man with motive and opportunity, who is suffering from some unintended side effects of the rememory machine. Yelchin portrays Todd with frightening conviction and is, as expected, solid in his supporting role. Julia Ormond is alright as Dunn’s wife, but with the inspiration of an actress who thought this was a made-for-TV movie.


I will give the movie a bonus point though. Dinklage’s stature is never once mentioned, alluded to, built into the plot or referenced, even as a joke, insult or excuse. In every other movie I have seen – tyrianbe it his obvious disadvantage amongst his otherwise beautiful siblings in Game of Thrones, being mistaken for one of Santa’s helpers in Elf, or the fact that his Bolivar Trask has a chip on his shoulder about mutants in X-Men Days of Future Past because, technically, he too is a mutant – Dinklage’s achondroplasia is ALWAYS a feature. But not in Rememory. The writer never once excused, apologized, alluded to, lionized, made fun of, played as a disadvantage, used as motivation, referenced or even noticed the actor’s/character’s dwarfism. Dinklage’s size is no more of an issue for the character or the plot than the color of his hair. And frankly, I think that’s classy and refreshing.

There’s no reason not to see Rememory. Rememory has no gratuitous sex,  nothing unpatriotic or blasphemous, no unnecessary violence, no animals killed, no small children thrown out windows, and no pregnant women murdered. Not even any smoking. There’s nothing terribly wrong with Rememory, just nothing very……… well……..memorable about it. And given the talent available to the film makers, that’s kind of a shame.