4 Stars Movies

Luca (2021)

Dear Link,

From all the stories and photos you mom put on social media, it did not take me long to realize you and your younger brother Lenny had a blast during your first ever trip to Disney World.

This, of course, has been a bit of a family tradition going back long before you were even born. It’s been nearly two decades since I was last there: Pirates of the Caribbean was not even a movie yet. It was also brought to my attention that, before you guys left, you and Lenny watched most of the Disney classics to prepare you. Take it from me, that is a lot of movies for two brothers who are only five and four!

2 1/2 Stars Movies

It Chapter Two (2019)

I have often stated that, for one reason or another, I have yet to read a single Stephen King book, meaning I am not always sure if the films are entirely faithful to the material (thought it is wildly known that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not, resulting in King vocally hating the film). It is true that most (if not all) film adapations will differ from the original source, so I feel compelled to judge the film as a whole rather than just how well the film was accurate or not. Whether or not IT Chapter Two is in the loyal category or not, the end result is still rather disappointing, especially since the first IT film two years ago was one of the better horror films of recent memory (I even went to declare it as the best film of 2017).

The film (directed by Andy Muschietti, who also directed the first film) opens twenty seven years after the events of the first film (2016, so modern day in some form), we see the return of the terrifying Pennywise (once again, played radiantly by Bill Skarsgard). We see that only one member of the Loser’s Club, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has decided to stay in the town of Derry, Maine (in flashbacks, he is played by Chosen Jacobs). He begins to call the remaining members back.

As expected, a lot has changed in twenty seven years, which is shown through a good number of flashbacks (where all the child actors from the original return). When last seen, young Bill (Jaeden Martell) was the leader and getting over his stuttering problem (let alone the death of his little brother Georgie). Now as an adult, Bill (James McAvoy) is a writer who seems to have problems coming up with good endings. Young Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) was last overweight yet still kind hearted. Now, the adult Ben (Jay Ryan) has clearly been working out, yet his heart is the same as ever (and still turned toward the one person who signed his yearbook twenty seven years ago). Ever the comic relief, young Richie (Finn Wolfhard) has grown up to be a comedian (played by Bill Hader). There is still the hypochondriac Eddie (James Ransone, who looks the most like his younger self when played by Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff as a child, and Andy Bean as an adult), and, finally, Beverly (Sophia Lillis as a child and Jessica Chastain as an adult).

One of the shocking parts to me (which I believe was in the book) was that it takes the characters a good amount of time to remember the events of the past (with the exception of Mike, who, due to staying in Derry, has remembered everything). I guess it would make sense that, due to the oddities of Derry (“I’m kind of used to it by now”, Bill says), memories may have faded in time (all of us have faded memories as well). However, some seem to take a long time for the characters to remember (it does not seem to cross Bill’s mind for sometime that he once had a little brother).

It is said that, in order to defeat IT, each member must retrieve a piece of their past, which must be done by themselves. This results in the flashbacks to the parts of that summer when the kids were not on speaking terms (after Eddie broke his arm and Bill punched Richie in the face). While the first film showed how we have to face our fears, the second film dives deeper, as it shows we sometimes do all we can to bury our fears and insecurities in the past. Facing our past mistakes can be scary in itself (think of Moses).

While I know there are parts of the story that needed to be told, the film still runs too long. There are some moments that are well done, but don’t really drive the story at all. One main scene I can think of is with a little girl who discovers Pennywise under the bleachers of a local baseball game. The scene is well done and affective, but what does it add to the story? We already knew that Pennywise was taking bloodcurdling to the next level.

Another one of the flaws of the film was the return of a certain character from the first one. While I won’t give it away (and the new actor looked like this character would in the future so well I was borderline flabbergasted), I will say how this character manages to escape predicaments and interact with the other characters is too bizarre to take into account.

As was the case with the first film, the cast is practically pitch perfect. Everyone fits their roles like a glove (I read that, when the child stars were asked who they would like to play their roles as adults, both Finn Wolfhard and Sophia Lillis picked the performers who would eventually play them). We also get two nice cameos that I for one was not expecting at all.

Parents, it should not take much thought to know that this is not a film for children. The movie deserves its R rating, though if your kids did see the first film, they would probably be okay here.

One thing the sequel has more of is CGI, which tends to dampen the scares down a bit (though there are still a good amount of “jump scares” to go around). While the CGI is not bad in a sense, the very idea of seeing Pennywise in his true form takes away some of the imaginative properties we had going into the theater. There is a point in the film where Mike talks about how, sometimes, we tend to keep the memories we like and not the bad ones. That being said, I plan to remember the greatness of the first film and not a lot from the second film.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

4 Stars Movies

Shazam! (2019)

It is not much of a secret that the DC universe has not made the best of films, with the exception of Wonder Woman (and possible Man of Steel). It is true that superhero films can be better when darker and have more depth, but it is a fresh reminder that they can also be fun. Enter Shazam!, which I would wager is the best film in the DC line up to this point.

Directed by David F. Sandberg (whose recent films, Annabelle: Creation, and Lights Out, were in the horror genre), Shazam! starts off with two flashbacks: one involving a young Thad Sivana (Ethan Pugiotto) who is transported via a magic 8 ball (oh how I miss those) to the cave of a magic wizard (Djimon Hounsou, who Marvel fans may recognize as Korath). He is looking for someone to pass his magic to, provided they are pure in heart. While young Thad may look like he is pure in heart, he fails, and is transported back to his father and older brother (who are not the most loving).

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a runaway orphan who has spent most of his life looking for his mother after losing her at a carnival when he was younger. He is given new foster parents, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), who already have a couple of foster kids on hand. The youngest is Darla (Faithe Herman), a super loving and always talking tike. Eugene (Ian Chen) is an adorable computer geek. Pedro (Jovan Armand) is kind but very reserved. The oldest is Mary (Grace Fulton), who takes the others under her wing as she is in the process of finding out which college to attend. Finally there is Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, most recently seen as one of the “Loser’s in 2017’s IT, and proves again here is one heck of a young talent), who, despite having a crutch, cracks one liners like a pro.

One day, Billy is summoned by the wizard, who tries again to pass his powers on. While the Wizard is still looking for one with a pure heart, Billy assures him that he is not the right choice (even going so far as to say no one really has a pure heart). It is discovered that the wizard has been holding off the seven deadly sins (gluttony, envy, lust, pride, greed, wrath, and sloth) from re entering the world and wreaking havoc. Eventually, the Wizard convinces him, and has Billy say the his name, Shazam!, turning him older and with powers (as well as into Zachary Levi, who is clearly having the time of his life in the title role).

We are then treated to half an hour or so of Billy learning of his super powers (with Freddy’s help, since he is the only one who knows about “this caped crusader stuff”). In this time, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself laughing quite a lot at the shennanigans that these two get themselves in (such as finding out what beer really tastes like). Meanwhile, the adult Thad (Mark Strong) has found his way back to the mystery cave, and has started to cause his own chaos. He becomes something that every DC film has basically lacked (unless you count Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad): a good villian.

Parents, the movie is PG-13, with some casual swearing (since the kids are mainly middle school age), and some suggestive material (the kids end up at one point in a “Gentleman’s Club”, though we never see the inside of it). There were even times I was thinking the film may even have been PG, so I would think ten and up would be okay.

The source of the power Billy possesses, of course, is in the name Shazam! (so much so that I have to always end it with an exclamation point). The same, of course, is true with God (only much more so). In Exodus 3, Moses asks God what name he should use when he reports back to the Israelites. God’s answer is one of my favorite moments of the whole bible: “I AM WHO I AM” (verse 14). The same also can be said of Jesus. If you bring the name of Jesus Christ up in a conversation, it does have quite an affect. Some people still cannot get over what to do with Jesus. If you want a quick primer on the argument for the resurrection of Jesus, click here. Speaking of authority and one’s name, the movie is also a nice reminder of how power (like the word of God) is not as effective if not shared. Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

The film does have some flaws (it does run long at times, but not terribly so), but it is a nice big leap in the right direction for DC films. Shazam! brings joy and life back to this universe with a beating pulse from its own (mostly) pure heart.


Rating: 4 out of 5.