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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bob Grimm

It Chapter Two gives moviegoers a needed, yet mediocre, conclusion to a saga started by the previous, far-superior film.

Translation: If you saw and liked the first movie, you need to watch this one to get the full story. You’ll also be witnessing a decline in quality.

In a strange way, I’m happy It Chapter Two exists, because it does have some good scares, and Bill Hader rocks as a grown-up Finn Wolfhard. It closes out the Stephen King story in much better fashion than that spider sequence in that TV miniseries. If you look at It as one long movie consisting of two chapters, the overall experience is still cool. But if you look at this sequel as a standalone … it’s a big mess—an editing-room fatality.

The first movie focused on the Losers’ Club as children, concluding with them seemingly defeating Pennywise the Clown (an always-frightening Bill Skarsgard). This one picks up 27 years later, welcoming the likes of Hader (Ritchie), Jessica Chastain (Beverly) and James McAvoy (Bill) to the proceedings.

When evil seems to revisit their hometown, the adult Losers return for a rematch with the morphing clown … and that’s it for the plot. The adults split up, suffer some individual horrors at the hands of Pennywise, then wind up back together for the finale.

A big problem in this movie is that the kids from the first film, who actually play a large part in this one, have aged a lot since the first chapter wrapped. While there have been some nice advancements in digital de-aging, this film does not show that. The kid scenes are a mixture of newly filmed scenes and flashbacks. The kids, often filmed in the dark, look very odd with their digitally altered, disproportioned faces; in some cases, their digitally de-aged voices make them sound like chipmunks. The producers should’ve filmed the extra kid scenes during the original movie’s production, saved themselves some dough on special effects, and had a better-looking movie.

There’s a lot of whining out there about this film’s running time, as it clocks in at 2 hours, 49 minutes. I actually wish director Andy Muschietti would have taken three films to tell this story, because at nearly three hours, this movie actually comes off as oddly rushed and haphazard. There’s talk that the original cut for Chapter Two was four hours long. Perhaps that hour will be restored in a home-video release; it might fill in some gaps and make the experience feel more complete and less compressed.

Hader rules this movie in the same way Wolfhard ruled the original. He’s funny; he’s aces at looking scared; and he can handle the heavy drama. Surprisingly, McAvoy seems a little lost in the role of grown-up Bill, while Chastain doesn’t really have much to work with during her screen time. Hader and Skarsgard make good chunks of this movie worth watching.

After a solid start, the performers run around from set piece to set piece, setting the table for some CGI scares mixed with occasional practical effects. (The old lady freezing during her tea chat with Beverly is perhaps the scariest/funniest moment in the movie, and it required no software.)

Again, I have a feeling It Chapter 2 could be somewhat redeemed by a director’s cut that could reinstall some of the connective tissue between the scenes. Right now, the film is just a bunch of thrill sequences smashing into one another in the second half, with no real sense of direction.

The story of It, as a whole on the big screen, is easily superior to the TV series that came before. It Chapter 2 drags the overall grade for both movies together to somewhere around a B-minus.

It Chapter Two is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile musicians to have ever walked the planet. Country music, pop, rock, opera, Mexican folk music—her resume is crazily full of wide-ranging, bold leaps into all corners of the musical landscape.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, with her full participation, covers her career from her Tucson, Ariz., roots, through her band The Stone Poneys, and on through her amazing solo career.

Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and many others sit down for interviews—and it slowly hits you that, dammit, this is one amazing entertainer, perhaps more amazing than you realized during her heyday.

Ronstadt has basically retired, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop her from offering up a jewel at the end of this movie—a short but very sweet moment of her singing with friends. This documentary is nothing unusual from a filmmaking standpoint, but it is a treasure trove of Ronstadt performances, and a consistently enjoyable historical study of a great gift to the music world.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice opens Friday, Sept. 13, at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565); and at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Harvey Weinstein is, and always was, a disgusting pig of a human being. Untouchable is a documentary about his despicable ways, specifically his abuse of power and women—and filmmakers don’t need to work hard to illustrate that the guy is a menace.

Victims of his abuse, including actresses such as Rosanna Arquette, offer first-hand accounts of Weinstein’s crimes, including actual recordings of Weinstein trying to coerce people into sex.

The fact that he got away with what he did for so long isn’t something that this movie really delves into, but it does give some people a deserved chance to tell their story—and the film helps expose this guy for the monster he truly is.

The film, appropriately, closes with the rise of the Me Too movement, which has coincided with the end of this fuckhead’s career. He’s managed to tie up his cases in court and pay a lot of people off, but he’s not coming back from the mess this time.

Have fun trying to evade justice, Harvey. You deserve all of the pain currently being bestowed upon you.

Untouchable is now streaming on Hulu.

I cried like a damn baby while watching After the Wedding. So, there you go.

After the Wedding has the distinction of having the lion’s share of its dialogue delivered by Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup; that’s a solid pedigree. This remake of a 2006 Swedish/Danish film has a soap-opera plot for sure—but you won’t care when it gets a little melodramatic.

Williams does so much with facial expressions in this movie—it’s otherworldly. As Isabel, a woman visiting New York in an effort to raise funds for her charity, she shows the power of simple expressions. She also reminds us that she’s a master at blowing the roof off the house if the script calls for it.

As Theresa—the businesswoman who might find herself cutting a big check for Isabel and her overseas orphanage—Moore doesn’t just match Williams’ power; she blows the shit out of the acting meter, if such a thing exists. (It doesn’t.) Moore is stunning in the role, whether her character is quietly closing a deal or getting super-drunk at lunch. Moore is also good when the script calls for volume.

This is one of those movies where I really can’t tell you much about it. Yes, it has a wedding in it, as the title implies. Grace (Abby Quinn), daughter of Theresa and Oscar (Crudup), a famous artist, is getting married to lame-guy Frank (Will Chase). Circumstances call for Isabel to attend the wedding, and … well, lots of things happen after the wedding, as the title implies.

The movie gets progressively nutty, going off the tracks and into the land of “this only happens in the movies” … yet I couldn’t help but be deeply moved by what transpires, silly as it was. Again, credit Williams, Moore and Crudup for that.

The film bends logic, has plot holes and includes a mystery that seems rather implausible. And, yet … I wept watching this thing. I’m not saying you will weep. You might watch this movie, and say aloud, “Grimm, you are a stupid wuss!” Well, I accept your wuss remark, and I stand proudly by the fact that this movie made me cry like a kid who had his Etch A Sketch taken away. I realize that the toy reference is a bit dated. I was a child of the ’70s. Piss off.

Sorry … after a good cry, I can be a little cranky. I watched this on a home screener, and I am literally writing this while the tears are still drying on my stupid, fat face. My dog is looking at me all like, “Come on, dude. You have to have bigger balls than that. You are a wuss. Give me food.”

Come Oscar time, I’m not too sure After the Wedding will get any attention. While the performances are as good as anything on screens so far this year, the script is straight out of Days of Our Lives. And, yet, cry, I did. Have I told you that this movie made me cry?

OK, I’m almost to the end of my review, and I think I’ve done a damn fine job of not revealing too much about the plot. This is the part where I will talk about the fine camerawork to pad the word count: The camerawork is really good in this movie. Actually, I’m not just saying that to eat up words, even though that is actually what I’m doing. The camerawork really is top notch.

All right, so this is the final paragraph, and I do realize that most of this wasn’t really a review. Go see After the Wedding if you want to cry, or you simply want some extra fuel to make fun of me with in the event that it doesn’t make you cry. Go ahead. Call me names. I’ve had a good cry, and I’m feeling mighty vulnerable.

After the Wedding is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Every now and then, Francis Ford Coppola goes back to his 1979 masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, and gives it another go.

In 2001, he did the Redux version, which featured the clumsy French plantation scene, and an additional scene with the Playboy playmates that should have remained on the cutting-room floor. There was also a scene in which Martin Sheen’s Willard steals the surfboard owned by Kilgore (Robert Duvall) … and subsequent scenes of Willard and his crew hiding from an angry Kilgore as he tried to find his board. The additional footage added up to 53 minutes, making the movie nearly 200 minutes long.

The new Final Cut keeps the surfboard stuff, but loses the playmates scene. Unfortunately, most of the plantation scene remains. (The dinner conversation is tedious, although the opium den is kind of cool.) The Final Cut clocks in at 181 minutes, keeping some of the interesting footage from Redux, but trimming the fat.

Yes, the version works better. It’s also fully restored visually and sonically, making this the best-looking and best-sounding version of Coppola’s masterpiece available on home video.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

After some strong but smaller roles in Ash vs Evil Dead and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Samara Weaving gets a lead role in Ready or Not—and totally kills it.

As Grace, a newlywed who has one of the worst wedding days in cinematic history—right up there with Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill—Samara is so good that it makes you wonder how she hasn’t had more big starring roles. She commands the screen with a fierce, comedic energy that helps make Ready or Not a memorable, if predictable, horror/thriller show. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, the movie is a scathing indictment of both the rich and the institution of marriage—all in good fun, of course.

When we meet Grace (fun fact: Weaving is Hugo’s niece), she’s about to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and enter into a very rich family. That family, led by Tony (Henry Czerny) and Becky (Andie MacDowell), have built their empire upon board games and sports teams—so their requirement that Grace play a game with them on her wedding night, while wacky, does make a little sense. As a tradition, Grace must draw a card from a mystery box to determine which game she must play with her new in-laws. The card she draws: hide and seek.

She would’ve been much better off drawing chess or checkers.

Armed with historic weapons and a bewilderingly crazed purpose, members of the Le Domas family—which includes seemingly grounded brother Daniel (Adam Brody) and crazily bitter Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni)—are determined to find and kill Grace by dawn. Hey, tradition is tradition, and Grace has got to go. Unfortunately for them, Grace is not going to go easy: She’s got a lot of fight in her, and a lot more than one person will be dying on this particular wedding night.

There have been plenty of movies in which a family isn’t all that happy about the new bride trying to enter their lives … but this one has matriarchs and patriarchs wielding crossbows. Czerny is especially outrageous as the dad who refuses to veer from tradition, even if it involves his new daughter-in-law getting an arrow through her neck rather than a good night’s sleep. McDowell, who has developed a reputation for a being a bit stiff as an actress, proves perfect as the wicked mom whose bow-and-arrow skills are a little rusty.

Brody has fun as the wild-card brother who may or may not be evil, while Guadagni’s permanent scowl is one of the funniest things in the movie. Satire is the driving force behind the plot, but the ending throws a curve that is avoids predictability.

Weaving—who progresses from blushing, pristine bride to blood-smeared, determined warrior—delivers pitch perfect work. As crazy as things get, she makes Grace all the more real. The movie is a not-too-distant cousin of 2017’s Revenge, in which an isolated heroine proves to be far more badass than her adversaries. While both are blood-soaked, this one is a little on the funnier side.

While Ready or Not is fun indeed—there are some laugh-out-loud moments—the movie doesn’t stand out as a genre original. It’s more a goof than anything truly eventful. Still, it’s undeniably fun.

As for Weaving’s future slate: She’ll play Alex Winter’s daughter in Bill and Ted Face the Music, the long awaited second sequel to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. She clearly has a future in comedy, but as she proves in Ready or Not, her talents are multi-dimensional. It’s time for Hollywood to take notice.

Ready or Not is playing at theaters across the valley.

The first season of Netflix’s Mindhunter—released back in October 2017—failed to grab me. But the just-released second season, with its first three episodes directed by executive producer David Fincher, kept me watching.

The show plays as sort of a “greatest hits” for serial killers, as an FBI division investigates the motivations of some of history’s most notorious real-life killers in the late 1970s. The main investigative plot has the team searching for the Atlanta child murderer(s), which occurred between 1979 and 1981, but it also involves the BTK serial killer. The team interviews David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) and Charles Manson. Of note: Manson is played by Damon Herriman, who also played Manson in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, albeit it only for a few seconds.

The show stumbles a bit when it comes to Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) dealing with family drama. It’s one subplot too much for a show that has a lot of subplots. Jonathan Groff, who annoyed me during the first season, gets a little more interesting as the angst-ridden agent who is champing at the bit to sit across from Charlie Manson.

Mindhunter: Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment.

Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears.

Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure.

Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game.

The trouble then begins, involving the destruction of a drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte); a predicament that involves a stash of Ecstasy pills; and two older, meaner girls, Hannah and Lily (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The goal—to reach the kissing party unscathed, with a bottle of beer so that they look cool—is blocked by much tween drama.

This film announces it’s not playing around right away, with the Beanbag Boys unleashing a torrent of obscenities showing they’ve been familiar with these words for at least a couple of years. As a former adolescent, I can attest to this reality: Kids do curse, and they love to curse. Deal with it.

Hearing kids talk like this in an American movie is oddly refreshing. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny to hear these words coming out of Tremblay’s cherubic face. As the title of the movie implies, these are good boys, even though they curse like Samuel L. Jackson in a Tarantino movie. They have dirty mouths, but they are anti-drug and anti-bullying—so much so that the film belabors those points a little too much and too obviously.

It’s no big surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the men behind Superbad, had a hand in producing this. The plot is very similar; in fact, Good Boys could almost qualify as a Superbad prequel or reboot, since the plot focuses on three kids trying to get to a party with alcohol in tow while cursing a lot. Jonah Hill’s Superbad kid kept getting hit by cars; Lucas also suffers grave, humorously depicted injuries along the way. It’s the same movie. It’s funny as hell, but it’s the same movie, just set in junior high rather than high school.

Director Gene Stupnitsky, making his feature debut, gets a gold star for getting kids to say this stuff with a straight face. (Lordy, there must’ve been a lot of takes.) The film sometimes feels a bit hollow, as if its only reason for existing is to show kids cursing a lot. Still, hearing kids curse a lot is hilarious.

Tremblay, Williams and Noon deserve a lot of credit for making this all so much fun. Tremblay, who has the most serious acting chops of the trio, is a natural, and he provides a great anchor for the madness. Williams is, at times, heartbreakingly sweet, especially when his character is dealing with the breakup of his family. Noon brings a pretty stellar singing voice to the proceedings, and it is put to good use on a rousing Foreigner track.

The summer needed a big blast of funny stupidity, and Good Boys provides it. It’s ripe for a sequel, where these kids are freshmen in high school. I think that premise is going to get the greenlight here real soon—and maybe McLovin will make a cameo.

Good Boys is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Lot of Gunns work on Brightburn, featuring a dark twist on a Superman-like mythos.

James Gunn (director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films) produces a script by brothers Brian and Mark Gunn. Young actor Jackson A. Dunn stars as the central character, a young alien boy who is starting to figure out he wasn’t actually adopted by his parents (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman). Like Superman, he has superpowers, including heat vision and super strength—but unlike Superman, he apparently doesn’t intend to put those powers to good use, because he starts ruthlessly killing people, including immediate family.

While the movie does have a superhero-gone-bad, sci-fi element, it’s mostly just a ruthless horror film with nasty gore. I really don’t have a problem with this, and I found Brightburn somewhat entertaining, but it’s nothing all that original. I do give the filmmakers props for going to the dark side and staying there.

Brightburn is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

Alvin Schwartz’s collection of short horror stories for kids gets a big-screen adaptation with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, directed by André Ovredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro.

The original three books gathered together stories from folklore and urban legend; Schwartz put his own spin on them, and even instructed readers on how to scare friends while reading them aloud. They were quite short, sometimes grisly and had no connecting thread. They managed to make their way into campfire stories in the 1980s; I distinctly remember somebody getting me with “The Big Toe” one summer’s eve.

Rather than do an anthology movie, like a Creepshow for kids, Ovredal and del Toro opt for a framing device that is a direct nod—one could also call it a rip-off—of Stranger Things/Stephen King’s It-style nostalgia involving plucky kids dealing with various horrors. The resulting film feels derivative, disconnected and boring, after a bunch of decent ideas are crammed into a storyline that just doesn’t work.

The gimmick trying to hold everything together is the story of Sarah Bellows (not a character in the books), an abused, long-deceased girl whose journal of stories is discovered by the aforementioned plucky teens, led by Stella (Zoe Colletti), in 1968. Others in the group include Auggie, the slightly intellectual guy (Gabriel Rush); Chuck, the goofy guy (Austin Zajur); and Ramón, the mysterious newbie (Michael Garza). All the group really needs is a young, quiet girl with a short haircut and an affinity for Eggos, and the Stranger Things circuit would be complete.

Is it scary? A little, at times. Harold the scarecrow is re-created quite nicely from the original drawings by Stephen Gammell in Schwartz’s book. He has a creepy human quality to him, and when he starts walking around, it’s freaky. Unfortunately, as was the case in the book, Harold’s appearance is very short.

“The Red Spot”—the spider-eggs-in-your-face story that appeared in the book after the infamous Bubble Yum spider eggs urban legend of the late 1970s—finds its way in as an ugly bathroom-mirror experience. Most effectively, a variation on “Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker!” called the Jangly Man, featuring a severed head, makes an extended appearance, as does the Pale Lady (once again impeccably re-created from the drawings) from “The Dream.”

You can’t have a Stranger Things/It rip-off without the school bully. That’s Tommy (Austin Abrams), a school athlete with a baseball bat, à la Negan from The Walking Dead, who is quite pissed about the flaming paper bag full of shit that landed on his lap while driving. His pursuit for revenge leads to a drive-in where Night of the Living Dead is playing. (Romero’s zombie classic actually came out in the year in which this movie is set.) Tommy’s fate is a predictable, as is his presence in the film.

Good visuals, decent acting and some solid scares don’t result in a solid horror film. Of course, I’m not the demographic for this one, although I did have the pleasure of reading the books when they first came out, so I wasn’t completely uninitiated. The choice to tie together everything with a hackneyed storyline rather than go the anthology route was a bad one. Too much of the movie feels forced rather than free-flowing.

As with any horror movie, you know you are relatively safe from hardcore frights if the movie is PG-13. It was R-rated, and Stranger Things feels like an R; there’s always that element of unease when you know you are watching something R-rated. Scary Stories, in comparison, feels a little wimpy. Yes, I know it was made for kids, so this is just a warning for hardcore horror fans: It’s pretty tame.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark isn’t a complete loss. It’s a success on the art direction/production design side, and I’m glad a movie exists that has brought Harold to life. But other than Harold and a few other visual treats, the movie feels like a giant missed opportunity.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is now playing at theaters across the valley.

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