IT (2017) Spoiler-Free Movie Review

I firmly believe that Hollywood remakes are the scourge of creative filmmaking. We’ve seen this proven time and time again as creative properties are simply revisited for the sake of making a buck. Hollywood producers just can’t seem to leave well enough alone!

In comes the new take on Stephen King’s IT. The film faced constant pre-production and production obstacles that seemed to back up my feelings toward remakes prior to the film even being released. Now that I’ve seen the finished product I can confidently say that I’ve never been happier to be wrong!

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IT is a startling and visually gripping tale with more heart than any horror movie should possess. The film triumphs largely because of a brilliant cast both young and old. So much of the positive press is focused on Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise (more on that in a moment) but the ‘Losers Club’ deserves just as much praise. A movie/book/anything works when you actually care about the characters in it. In this case, the tension and scares worked because it was so easy to become invested in the kids. Each of the ‘Losers’ had a believable chemistry where viewers could sense that the kids are actual friends. Their playful banter brought a lightheartedness to the story that was needed to break up the dread while giving each young actor an individualized character identity.

Then there’s Pennywise…. can I just say – holy shit! Bill Skarsgård magnificently created an homage to Tim Curry’s portrayal while firmly cementing his own version of the character in horror history. I can’t think of a personalized reimagining that’s worked this well since Heath Ledger took on the Joker. Skarsgård’s Pennywise wasn’t just a creepy clown that sometimes showed his monstrous side, but rather, he is a deranged malevolence that twitched and growled under a thinly veiled clown facade. He managed to be funny, quirky, and unpredictably terrifying across every moment of screen time.

The glue that held this film perfectly in place was certainly the vision of director Andrés Muschietti. Muschietti made it clear that this half of the story was meant to be told from the perspective of the kids. Kids experience things, especially fear, differently than adults. We saw this as the settings they entered may have looked creepy from the outside, then on the inside they became cavernous nightmares just as a child might view it. This was a subtle technique that allowed the audience to connect with the trials and tribulations of the Losers Club on an even deeper level. Casting of the minor adult characters added to this as well since they were all terrible people, if not a sort of monster themselves, as a kid might view them to be.

So if you’re reading this and haven’t seen IT, do yourself a favor and go! It’s a thrilling experience that will stick with you long after the 2 hour and 15 minute runtime. All of the buzz you’ve heard is well deserved. Hollywood desperately needed a reminder as to why horror should be taken seriously and they found IT!

My final review of IT (2017) is 9.5 out of 10.

What did you think of IT? What’s your favorite recent horror film? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com.

jolly nathanThe Belligerent Barnes

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STOP WORRYING about Star Wars!

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Yesterday the news broke that Colin Trevorrow has “parted ways” with Disney and won’t be directing Star Wars Episode IX. Since then, my regular internet stomping grounds have been ripe with commentary. The consensus, from what I’ve been able to stomach, is that Trevorrow’s removal is a sign that Star Wars is in trouble. To those outspoken critics I say – shut the hell up already!

I’m more confident now than ever before that our holy space epic is in very good hands. At the time of this writing, Rian Johnson is reported to be the frontrunner to take over on the last installment in the current trilogy. Let’s assume there’s truth to that report (and I hope there is)… Think about it for a moment – Disney wants the director of Episode VIII to direct Episode IX. That is an unenviable job that the bazillion dollar monopoly wouldn’t trust anyone with unless they have confidence in what will be delivered. The powers at be in the Mouse House have seen Johnson’s Last Jedi and their preference to keep the same director meaning they really liked what they saw! How could that not be seen as a good thing?

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Security moments before escorting Colin Trevorrow off the studio lot

Perhaps this had nothing to do with the Jurassic World director’s take on how the trilogy would end – it’s probably more likely that they were so fond of Rian Johnson’s work that they wanted him to see it through. He’s already got a mega-blockbuster-to-be under his belt with the saga and is an incredibly likeable diehard fan. Through filming Last Jedi he’s already developed a rapport with the cast/crew while possessing an intimate perspective of the story arc. If Disney has any hope of hitting the May 2019 release (without possible reduction in quality) then it makes sense for the film to be piloted by someone as freshly tenured in the galaxy far, far away as Johnson. That’s just smart, logical business.

I think this situation is much different from the recent debacle with Han Solo. It sounds like the Phil Lord and Chris Miller were simply headed in the wrong direction. Regardless of Disney’s desire to bring directorial diversity to Star Wars, a universal familiarity is absolutely required to mesh with the legacy that has formed over the last 40 years. Gareth Edwards brought a very different type of movie with Rogue One while still allowing it to feel like Star Wars. Frankly, Ron Howard is an ideal fit to right the ship and I’m still confident it’ll be great.

That’s the thing, we need to be confident that Disney will deliver. Even the most hating of haters out there can admit that the franchise has been in spectacular hands AT LEAST compared to the prequel trilogy days. Disney has delivered worthy entries and has the means to continue doing just that. Whatever news breaks between now and the release of ANY one of these films will not change the reality that I’ll be in line with my family for the first showing.

There has never been a greater time to be a Star Wars fan!

What do you think? Do you have faith in Disney’s plan? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com.

jolly nathanThe Belligerent Barnes

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Death Note – 2017 Film Review

Before we begin, I feel it is important to confess that I’m not a manga fan at all and have little desire to give any anime the chance I probably should. With that disclaimer in place, I still felt like giving the new Netflix adaptation of the popular manga a shot. So was it worth my time?

 

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Death Note – directed by Adam Wingard

 

My overall impression that was really difficult to shake was a resounding “meh”. The story in interesting enough – a ‘death god’ by the name of Ryuk chooses an awkward teen to be in possession of a powerful book that can bring about the very specific demise of anyone who the holder of the book writes inside. All the person writing the name needs is their full name and to visualize their face. It’s an interesting concept that seemed perfect for the Netflix outlet. There’s plenty of blood, twists, turns, and enough to keep your attention.

Interestingly enough, the biggest fault of the movie is also its biggest strength: casting. I could not stand the lead actor Nat Wolff who played the angsty teen Light Turner. He didn’t seem like a high school student at all – if anything, he seemed like a creep posing as a student. That, combined with his over-the-top reactions and facial expressions, were very distracting almost immediately. The semi-antagonist in the story, ‘L’ played by Lakeith Stanfield, was more tolerable yet still quirky to the point of being off putting. I’ll excuse the L character since that quirkiness is largely what his character was supposed to be however poorly paced his introduction ended up being.

I mentioned that casting was also its strength and that’s entirely thanks to the choice of Willem Dafoe to voice Ryuk. It was honestly this choice that kept me watching the film being he brought so much creepy life to the shadowy death god. I’m glad they kept Ryuk mostly to the shadows because it upped his creepy factor tenfold. The Leftovers Margaret Qualley was also rather good as Mia Sutton; I wish she’d been the focus rather than the intolerable Light Turner. Shea Whigham played a very believable father to Light and maintained that fun, socially blunt charm that he typically puts into characters (I saw a lot of similarities to his character in Kong Skull Island).

Perhaps it was the choice of director that hurt this films quality. Adam Wingard isn’t terrible but his resume is filled with ‘meh’ horror films: Blair Witch, V/H/S, You’re Next, etc. His cinematography focus is very self-indulgent in that he’ll spend too much time showing plates falling during a chase or small things that do little more than distract from the story. I get that he tried to maintain a certain artsy style yet I believe it was at the expense of the film’s pacing.

All in all, it’s not a bad movie but it’s also not a great movie. The latter half definitely becomes more interested so it’s worth sticking out to see things sort of wrap up. If they do another movie I hope it’s without Light’s character because that could make it worth revisiting.

 

My final rating of Death Note (2017) is a 6.3 out of 10.

 

What’s your favorite manga/anime adaptation? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure

In today’s market, we have a plethora of option’s when it comes to action figures. Consumers have a variety of different price point options from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Along with higher price points we also have gotten better quality and detail. I personally do collect action figures. I tend to gravitate to the action figures with a bit more detail associated with them. With Hot Toys; you will definitely get a very life like figure, but you will also take a hit to your wallet easily spending $300-$1000. Unfortunately, I have responsibilities to keep…kids gotta eat you know. That being said you can always find a happy medium. Today I will offer a review for Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure.

 

I have had this figure on pre-order for almost 5 months since I saw this pop up on EntertainmentEarth.com (Great site that has all things geek/nerd to buy). I am a fan of all things Batman, but that being said I am a harsh critic of comics and merchandise that comes out with Batman’s likeness. The price is extremely manageable at $54.99 before tax. The figure stands almost 6 inches tall (5 9/10 inch). In the package you will receive an optional head, 5 sets of hands, 2 bat-a-rang’s, 1 grappling-gun, and 1 bomb-gun. There are an amazing 21 points of articulation on this figure. You also get a very large bendable cape that keeps the spirit and feel from the Christopher Nolan trilogy; when Batman glides from building to building. The detail on this figure is very impressive. You can see areas where SH Figuarts was attempting to represent the carbon fiber and body armor. Where the figure fell a bit short was the very large side holster for the grappling gun. Also, the “shoulder pads” on the figure came off very easily when moving the arms around. Lastly, when replacing the head and hands, I was worried a few times that I was going to break the little piece connecting the neck to the head and the hand to the arm; felt like I was gonna snap it off.

My final rating Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure is 9.1 out of 10.

What do you collect? What price point do you try to stay with? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

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The Dull Knight

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Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 – by Tom Taylor

If you’re at all familiar with my reviews, you probably know that I’m a major fan of ‘one-shot’ comics. As fantastic as traditional comic book story arcs can be, there’s something refreshing about having the entirety of a story, albeit a short story, held within a single comic. It was a little bittersweet to hear that the long desired team up of Wolverine and the All-New Wolverine would be limited to one of these one shots. Regardless, with Tom Taylor at the helm of this issue I knew it would pack a bloody punch with every page.

I mentioned this comic ahead of time to my 7 year old daughter who is a huge Laura Kinney fan. She and I recently cosplayed as the theatrical Old Man Logan and Laura (go to my personal Instagram for the pic) so this particular issue was one we definitely had on our radar.

 

Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 Review

 

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Tom Taylor has a knack for the ‘less is more’ approach to his storytelling. He’s very good at letting things unfold without a dissertation to set up a story. This comic is a great example of this because it throws you right into the middle of Logan battling the undead ninjas of the Hand. Readers will have their attention immediately grabbed because, for once, this intense battle isn’t going in Wolverine’s favor and he’s moments away from losing for good. All the while there is very little narration offered – even though you’re not 100% sure what’s happening, it doesn’t matter because you are given the sense that things will fall into place in the coming pages. Jorge Molina’s artwork compliments this style quite well as readers are easily immersed in this desperate setting.

Fortunately for Logan, Laura (the All-New Wolverine) mysteriously appears and gracefully kicks copious amounts of undead ass. I absolutely loved how you’re treated to Logan’s thought process as he is just as awestruck by her ability. There’s no explanation why she’s there because it doesn’t matter – Wolverine needed help and his clone/daughter from the future supplied it fantastically.

The dialogue throughout the issue is top notch. Overall it’s effective yet subtle which makes for a smooth read. Interactions between the new and old Wolverine are exactly as they should be with Laura subverting normal tropes as she normally does with hints of Logan’s blunt charm.

As the pages progress you see that Logan is getting more and more hints as to his true connection with the mysterious Laura. This opens up some genuinely sweet moments between them before the story ends. It was very special for me to read this aloud with my daughter. It’s a thoughtful yet ass-kicking story that never veers into any excessive or over-the-top areas like it easily could have.

My final rating of Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 is a 9.6 out of 10.

What’s your favorite comic book one-shot? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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STAR WARS: Darth Vader #4 – by Charles Soule

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The August installment of Marvel’s new venture into the history of the Dark Lord of the Sith promised the confrontation that would award Vader his lightsaber, and it certainly delivered! After losing the first round to exiled Jedi Master, Kirak Infil’a, Vader was left in a state that might defeat any lesser villain. I do love how this comic has painted Vader as a vulnerable, headstrong, and stubborn character that hasn’t yet reached the levels of legendary evil we know him to be. His actions are fueled by unchecked rage that force innovation rather than the precision of a lightsaber.

 

Master Infil’a assumed he’d defeated the Sith and was preparing to set off on his new mission to rebuild the Jedi Order. At some point it would be neat for Marvel to produce a comic that explores an alternate timeline where he continues with this mission to link up with other Order 66 survivors like Yoda, Obi Wan, and Kanan Jarrus. Alas, Vader survived and came back ready to fight dirty. The comic comes to a head with Vader attacking the Jedi’s sense of nobility rather than another outright physical confrontation. Vader broke a water levee, thus killing scores of innocent people, just to get the edge on Infil’a to take his lightsaber and finish the job. It was a delightfully evil climax which furthered the divide between Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker.

 

My only complaint is along the same lines I had in my prior review of issue number two – this issue should have been combined with the one the preceded it. Marvel could have combined the first and second then third and fourth issues into two “mega-sized” editions that would have better maintained the tension without sacrificing cohesiveness to the story arch. Regardless, I absolutely adore how Marvel is treating this time period in my all-time favorite character’s history.

 

My final rating of STAR WARS: Darth Vader #4 by Charles Soule is a 8.8 out of 10.

What’s your favorite Star Wars comic? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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On Losing Legends

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Yesterday the horror and film community lost a one of a kind talent, George A. Romero. Romero was the visionary who originally brought us Night of the Living Dead and thus inspired decades of scares. When we hear the word “zombie”, it’s Romero’s version of those undead monstrosities that shambles through our minds. I personally used that template for my own novels – the writing of which was a lifelong goal achieved. So needless to say, the passing of this legend has lingered at the forefront of my thoughts since hearing the news. George Romero was a legend in every sense of the word and his loss will be felt forever.

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It occurred to me that the feeling of losing a legend is something we’ve had to work through on a seemingly regular interval recently. Why is that? Are notable figures and celebrities really passing any more than usual? That’s an absurd thought that is hard to shake because the sense of grief has enjoyed a short cycle of auto-fulfillment. For me the recent hits have been Adam West, Chris Cornell, and of course Carrie Fisher (whose appearance in The Last Jedi will probably have me break down in tears).

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We miss you, Princess.

We live in a time of worthy idols and ever-advancing technology. Creative talent is everywhere if you’re willing to look beyond the lazy trends of reality television. The legendary talents that graced the silver screen and our televisions from our early years are regularly reinventing themselves or furthering cultural movements they founded. There are so many worthy escapes from the never ending onslaught of ‘hellfire and brimstone’ that current events/politics have become. Indeed, it’s a good time to be a fan of just about anything. So why the hell am I so down?

The internet is the root of our grief here. In its regular shrinking of our planet, the internet has brought everything pop culture into addiction feeding byte-sized (see what I did there?) doses. This over-accessibility of information has taken our entertainment icons and rocketed them to legendary status faster than ever before. It’s a double-edged sword to have information so accessible. Fans feel close attachment to celebrities they’ve never met through social networking and blogs. Obtaining a “fix” for any person of interest is as easy as a few mind numbing taps on a phone screen. The downside of this accessibility outlet is that you may feel less inclined to actually go meet someone in person.

I think that’s what is really tearing me up here… Even with the profound impact George A. Romero had on my life, I never met the man in person. After spending at least two decades worshiping Carrie Fisher for the marvel she was, I don’t know that I was ever in the same state as her. I passed up an opportunity to see Soundgarden in concert because I assumed I’d get another chance when schedules might be better. All my wife wanted to do was give Adam West a hug and we didn’t go because we didn’t want to deal with the con crowds or prices. What’s bringing me down is a profound regret that I didn’t do everything possible to make my fanboy dreams a reality by at least shaking the hand of these legends who’d shaped my life.

Where am I going with this? Who the the hell knows. I’m feeling inexplicably guilty and needed an outlet that, as I previously mentioned, the internet is the place for such things. I suppose the moral of the story is to fight the atrophied fandom modern day has created and get out there. Meet the fans, talk about your passions, celebrate the legends lost while maybe getting the chance to thank the living ones in person.

Thanks for the scares, Mr. Romero. I hear you were a hell of a guy in person and I’m sorry I never got the chance to meet you in this life.

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