The Book of Henry

Many months ago, when this film was still wanting to come out and exist, I saw a teaser trailer for The Book of Henry and I was intrigued.

Whatever that trailer showed me, it showed me a potentially very cool story. I remembered absolutely nothing about the plot, just that it was maybe cool. And yet, I missed the screener for a different film. Apparently I dodged a bullet though, as this film was then blasted to so many directions.

I didn’t read or hear specifics, just words like bad getting thrown around. Which is enough for me to know I had to watch it eventually.

Eccentric
Just like how we know eventually that plunger had poop touching it.

Susan Carpenter (Naomi Watts) is a single mom, struggling to get by on her own with her two sons: Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay). Even though she struggles, she really shouldn’t, because Henry gets to be a super genius level kid at 11 or so. He is taking care of their funds, their bills, everything. She just needs to work and be a mother.

And sure, that is weird. But hey, whatever works. Speaking about “whatever works,” their neighbor (Dean Norris) is the head of the police force also, with a stepdaughter, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), in his custody, for whatever reason. Henry is super sure that she is getting beat up by her stepfather, but people won’t listen to him, for the lack of proof thing. Fucking A.

Long story short, Henry gets a fast moving cancer, totally dies, and has left behind a big book of instructions for his mom to kill their neighbor.

Also starring Sarah Silverman, Lee Pace, and Tonya Pinkins.

Gun
Oh. Well. Um.

The Book of Henry started out very okay, without a lot of bad or good things really going on. Just a story, intelligent and nice kid trying to do good. The death switch up? That was sad and a bit strange. The book? Well, that is when the movie quickly nose dived into stupid, stupid, stupid territory.

In general, I often have problems in movies for the character who is so goddamn smart that he has predicted things from real people eight actions in advance. The master planner, even in superhero things, usually makes me sort of glare at the screen and find it disbelieving, unless they also had an actual psychic ability.

And we get all of this in this film, but it is actually supposed to be realistic, and it is a goddamn kid. Because in this book, with tape recorders, he has so many instructions for his mom to listen to while walking around. While this is happening, the mom character will talk back, make snide remarks, whatever, which Henry totally predicted and he will respond thusly.

Oh my goodness, it is so terribly dumb to watch. On top of that, the plot is stupid from the get go at that point, and the ending is a few steps worse.

The Book of Henry might have had a good concept, but it was then thrown away and instead we were given this turd burgler of a film. Nothing deep and philosophical to see here, folks.

0 out of 4.

It

The story of It affected my childhood, without ever seeing it. I recognized it as a scary movie with a clown based on its advertising. But I heard other things about the miniseries. First, that it was an incredibly long movie! It had TWO VHS tapes, and I didn’t know it was made for TV and over two nights. The idea was unheard of for me (because at that young age, I didn’t know there were movies over 3 hours long).

I was also told that It wasn’t really a clown, but a spider. I don’t know if I can verify that still, I just still believe it because I was told it and fuck, spiders are scary.

And I almost read It. Or at least audiobook’d it, planned on doing it after The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, but had such a disappointing time with them that I switched to authors that I knew and it was on the back burner. Now, in retrospect, I am glad I never read It, because now It is now a new movie, and I don’t need some silly source material mucking up my experience. With the sequel coming out in a few years, I will just have to hold off on that book for a few more years, and then, maybe, I will finally give Stephen King a chance.

Gutter
I didn’t grow up in the gutter like this clown thing, but I did once go to a night club called Da Guttah.

In the small community of Derry, Maine, a sinister entity lives and preys on children, much to the apathy of the citizens there. Poor little Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) is his first victim, and he just wanted to play with a boat in the rain. Well, after that, our film flashes to the end of that school year, with Georgie’s older brother, Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), still shook up by his brother’s disappearance, but his family seems to have already moved on. And it isn’t just Georgie. Other kids have started disappearing, at a seemingly alarming rate, but again, the community just shrugs its shoulders.

And with this summer vacation, Bill wants to use this extra time to map out some sewers or the nearby quarry to search for his brother. His friends include Richie (Finn Wolfhard), a smart ass with a loose mouth, Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) a hypochondriac thanks to his mother, and Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), who is Jewish, and that is his characteristic that matters I guess. They are quickly joined by a few other “misfits” in their community, Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) who is fat and a new kid, and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) a girl who lives in an abusive home and who is rumored to be a slut. It takes a lot longer in the film before we are also joined by Mike (Chosen Jacobs) who is home schooled and black, but completes their little posse.

And hey, eventually they all start getting strange events happening to them. Visions of a clown who wants to eat them, or other fears rising out and seeming so realistic. Good old Pennywise (Bill SkarsgÄrd), with his clown makeup and sharp teeth. He took Georgie! Through some research they find out that something terrible happens in their town every 27 years or so that takes out a lot of kids. It is surprising that no one has connected the dots. But they need to work together and over come their fears to stop this terror, if they want to survive and protect the future of Derry, Mai

Also featuring a few chaps as older kid bullies: Nicholas Hamilton, Logan Thompson, and Jake Sim.

Kids
And in this scene, the kids recreate their favorite movie from the future: Sinister!

By the time you are reading this review, It has already been out for a few weeks and you have already heard good things about It. You know It is good, you have statistically probably already seen It. The film is fresh, well shot, scary and ominous when it needs to be, and it feels like there are really kids running the show.

And kids running the show leads to a few of the small issues I had. Kids are stupid, so we are allowed to accept it when they do something stupid during a scary situation. That is the worst part of horror movies, watch a character who has shown to be one who uses their brain, who throws it all out of the window when they get a spooks or when they choose to investigate something odd. So much of the plot moves just due to characters being dumbasses that it is frustrating.

The film is decently scary, and again, great to look at. The Georgie scene to start the film really set the tone and also would quickly position itself away from the previous iteration for those who loved the original. With a large cast of characters, I am surprised that so many actually felt like real people. Unfortunately some of the lesser group members, namely Mike and Stanley, feel like they are limited by their obvious differences instead of actual personalities or story lines.

I am still excited for a sequel and thought it was a lot better than a lot of other recent horror films, but at the same time, it is limited in scope based on the story of the book I guess. I just want people to do the right/smart thing every once in awhile.

3 out of 4.

Midnight Special

Quick, it’s midnight, what do you do? I tell you what I do. I sleep.

But for some people midnight is something special. And yes this poor intro was just a way to say the title Midnight Special, but it isn’t going to well.

Before the film, I knew nothing about it outside of the director, who has recently directed Take Shelter and Mud. I loved Mud! That means I might like this one too!

Boy
How old do you have to be for this potential Halloween costume to come off as creepy?

Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) has gone missing in Texas. An Amber Alert has been issued statewide, strangely with no picture, but a good description and a picture of the man who probably took him. Roy (Michael Shannon)! Sure, Roy happens to be his father, but that is besides the point. That boy needs to be found and they will put a lot of resources into it.

Hell, even the FBI is involved. That’s how serious this is. The boy was taken from a place called The Ranch, which is a bit of a religious cult. They hold sermons at night, led by Calvin (Sam Shepard). They think the boy is their messiah and that judgement day is coming soon. He has glowing eyes and gives people emotional visions that make them think everything will be alright. They send a few people to find him (Bill Camp, Scott Haze), where the FBI has an NSA member (Adam Driver) conducting the search.

Roy has a childhood friend helping him, Lucas (Joel Edgerton), and along the way also running into Sarah (Kirsten Dunst), Alton’s mom. They believe their boy is sick and the only way to help him is to get him to a specific location and time, based mostly on a whim. They have to travel only at night, with a whole mess of people with guns trying to stop them.

Also featuring smaller roles for Paul Sparks and David Jensen.

Dad
Yes I did say travel only at night. This movie isn’t called Noon Special.

I have a staggering weak knowledge level about sci-fi movies from the 70’s-90’s unless they were aimed at kids. This is a film that feels like it is full of allusions and I understood probably none of them.

The good news is that I didn’t have to catch any allusions (because, there also might be none, fuck if I know) to enjoy the pants off of this film. By the end, I felt such sorrow and joy simultaneously, and there aren’t many films that can pull it off. It is just a beautiful film, from the acting, cinematography, to the arguably simple story. Parts of the film do feel like a mystery, but the point of the film isn’t to answer all your questions but to take the viewer on the ride with the boy and be amazed and full of wonder. Jeff Nichols, the writer/director, feels like an older and wiser Damon Lindelof despite being five years younger. The mysteries and secrets are important for the story, not just shocking viewers.

And really, when it comes down to it, his is a film about a father afraid to let his boy off into the world and become his own person. Their journey is very emotional and every line delivered from Shannon you can feel/se the pain and sorrow in his voice and eyes.

Midnight Special is probably this years Ex Machina. A beautiful sci-fi film that doesn’t get enough attention, although this one is a lot more broader in its scale and reach. I know for certain I might never look at a sunrise the same way.

4 out of 4.

St. Vincent

Day after Christmas, and you know what that means… Boxing Day! The day I don’t pretend to understand but could easily look up. I think it involves even better shopping deals and when people presumably box up their trees for the trash or the attic.

Screw that though, let’s say it is about some secret day to worship some other saint. After all, Christmas is about Saint Nick. There are presumably a whole lot of Christmas days (12? 25?) that people just seem to accept but not question when they are. So now we can say Boxing Day is for St. Vincent.

Sure, some people may say this is one of my more ridiculous openings to a review, where I am clearly just being stupid. And to that, I say, okay.

Dusty
Legally obligated to show this picture whenever talking about this movie on the internet.

Vincent (Bill Murray) is old, and thus, mean and grouchy. He lives in a run down place, all dirt, nothing growing but a tree in his front yard. So when neighbors move in and their moving company somehow manage to ruin his car, fence, and tree, he is a bit displeased. Not the best way for Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Olvier (Jaeden Lieberher).

Maggie is going through a divorce. So she has to spend a lot of her time at work making extra money, so she needs someone to watch Oliver sometimes. Vincent is nearby and willing, for a price, because Vincent has gambling debts and other costs that are just racking up. He even has a wife in a nursing home who doesn’t remember him, but he still makes sure she can live in luxury while he lives in filth.

See, Vincent is swell. Even with all the drinking and gambling and care free attitude. Oh, and the pregnant prostitute/stripper (Naomi Watts) that is in his life. Another vice, I guess. But when he is isn’t sexing or getting beat up by an old Terrence Howard, he can sometimes teach Oliver to fight. You know, the important skills.

Oh hey. Chris O’Dowd plays a Catholic Priest teacher, a role I feel like he keeps getting shoe horned into.

Hospital
This is the best McCarthy movie since Go from 1999, which is saying a whole lot.

I have a pretty weird relationship with Bill Murray. He once gave me a wedgie and ran away yelling “No one will believe this!” the bastard. But also I don’t have the deep appreciation of all the 80’s/90’s comedies he starred in. I like him more in his cameo roles.

But his drama roles are usually pretty top notch. Even in the pretty disappointing The Monuments Man he had one of the better parts in a shower scene (uhh…). And in this role, it felt like Murray was actually acting and not just playing an old man. He had a different persona/character about him and he did it really well.

McCarthy was also really well in this role. I didn’t hate her character in the slightest which was a nice change. I didn’t even recognize Watts at all.

The only issues I really have with this movie is how predictable the whole thing is. Nothing really deviates from an expected path and everything seems to fall into place.

So, it is a well acted and interesting movie? Just not as amazing I had hoped, but still pretty good and worth a watch or two.

3 out of 4.