September 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard
Directed by: Andy Muschietti (Mama)
Written by: Chase Palmer (debut), Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) and Gary Dauberman (“Annabelle: Creation”)

Everyone will go into Andy Muschietti’s “It” with vastly different expectations. Some will be hoping for a solid adaptation of Stephen King’s book, while others may have no knowledge whatsoever of King’s property. There are miles of expectations existing between those two platitudes. I’ve read Stephen King’s lengthy novel; it’s not my favorite of his, but it’s impossible to deny how singular of a work it is. However, this is not the review to read if you’re looking for an examination of faithfulness to the source or comparisons to the 1990 miniseries that isn’t as good as you remember. Those critiques can be found elsewhere on the internet, and many of them are very much worth your time. Warner Bros and New Line seem to be at least partially aware of audiences’ multi-faceted relationship to Pennywise and the Losers Club, as they have put out a movie that is clearly meant to appeal to the masses, with the final product revealing itself to be somewhat of a mixed bag.

Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond giddy that this movie exists. I’ll be happy to see it make money and am wildly intrigued to see the direction in which the inevitable sequel takes its characters. From this movie’s opening moments, Andy Muschietti crafts a vision that is uncompromisingly violent, twisted and bloody. He introduces us to a group of young friends that are genuinely likable and then fucks them up, one by one, repeatedly for nearly two-and-a-half hours. There’s something genuinely scary about children in peril, and recent films like “Annabelle: Creation” have employed this notion effectively, but no mainstream movie in recent memory has been as unrelentingly brutal as “It.”

That violence is an essential theme to the movie, and it never feels excessive or exploitative. Childhood is messy and bloody. Yes, we see how the film’s villainous otherworldly clown harms children, but the script from Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman doesn’t stop there. There is real world violence present in King’s fictional town of Derry, Maine. Child-on-child violence appears in the forms of knife-wielding bullies and concussive rock fights. Abuse from adults rears its heads in both physical and psychological ways. Not even the animals are safe.

At its core, “It” is a coming-of-age tale where a band of misfits overcome their real-world fears while simultaneously destroying a monster that feeds off said fears. It’s a fantastic idea ripe with potential. Muschietti does an exceptional job setting the stage to explore it. His images are striking and individual moments are uniquely scary despite a familiar formula. The cinematography from Chung-hoon Chung (Chan-wook Park’s longtime collaborator) is a hypnotically stunning and eerie. Additionally, Benjamin Wallfisch’s deceptively simple score does a lot of heavy lifting. In fact, all the behind-the-camera elements, by any genre’s standards, are of the highest caliber. This is a great looking, astonishingly directed move. But strip Muschietti’s film of its glossy elements and there’s little left to chew on, especially when the film commits to its by-the-numbers third act.

To be fair, there’s plenty of compelling stuff here. It nails the complicated state of childhood, and the best moments involve the kids hanging out with each other. Jaeden Lieberher is great as Bill, the leader of the gang going through agonizing grief after losing his younger brother. Sophia Lillis gives a star-making performance as Beverly, easily the highlight of the film until she’s reduced to a catatonic rallying device for the final act. I enjoyed all of the kids, their awkward interactions and sophomoric sense of humor. And they’re definitely smarter than what the script has them go through for the end. That ending, by the way, is something lifted straight out of an early “A Nightmare on Elm Street” movie. It’s a storytelling decision that is familiar and doesn’t take any risks. For all its alluring sheer, well-crafted scares and bold choices, “It” ultimately regresses back to its mainstream roots, and the film suffers from that decision.

Ep. 40 – Chappie, The King of Kong, the Oscars may go back to 5 best picture nominees, Cary Fukunaga’s latest film goes straight to Netflix and what this means for the future of distribution, and Cody talks about seeing Once on stage

March 8, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from review “Chappie.” They also discuss the Oscars potentially going back to only 5 Best Picture nominees, discuss the upcoming Cary Fukunaga Netflix movie and the future of distribution, a review of “Once: The Musical,” and their thoughts upon re-watching “The King of Kong” at their Alamo Drafthouse event.

[0:00-6:39] Intro/Avengers trailer talk
[6:39-23:44] Oscars back to 5 best picture nominees
[23:44-53:42] Cary Fukunaga’s latest film will go straight to Netflix, and what this means for the future of distribution, complete with long argument
[53:42-1:06:52] Cody reviews Once: The Musical
[1:06:52-1:29:57] Chappie
[1:29:57-1:43:07] Deja View – The King of Kong event wrap up
[1:43:07-2:10:00] Q&A with Steve Wiebe

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To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

Sin Nombre

March 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Luis Fernando Peña
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga (debut)
Written by: Cary Fukunaga (debut)

While many films about immigration have come and gone throughout the years, very few are compelling enough to resonate through all the recognizable tales of struggle, sacrifice, and pain most stories usually chose as their main theme. In “Sin Nombre,” however, director Cary Fukunaga is able to take a multilayered idea for the first feature film of his career and construct a terrifying and poetic world one soon won’t forget.

Atop a train going from Honduras through the length of Mexico, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a young Honduran girl, a travels with her brother and estranged father to the border with plans to get to New Jersey. Plans change when Sayra meets Willy (Edgar Flores) AKA Casper, a troubled young man who is traveling the rails to escape the gang he no longer wants to call his brotherhood.

Turning his back on the Mara Salvatrucha gang, however, isn’t something the group takes lightly. With members in different parts of Mexico, leaders of the gang put a mark on Willy and try to hunt him down before he can make it to the U.S. While Sayra has her own life to live, she builds a friendship with Willy during their journey. Both realize they need each other if they want to survive the tedious trip across Mexico. Portraying the protagonists of the film, Gaitan and Flores are subtly sublime in their performances and carry each other wonderfully through most of their scenes together.

With many of the scenes taking place on the top of a moving train, Fukunaga and cinematographer Adriano Goldman create a beautiful albeit lonely backdrop for our characters to understand their motivation for making such a dangerous trek for a new life. While there is little hope in the eyes of Sayra and Willy, Fukunaga delivers a stunningly confident and very authentic narrative that is both well-developed and deeply moving.

Cary Fukunaga – Sin Nombre

February 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Interviews

After his 2004 short film “Victoria para Chino,” the true story of the nation’s deadliest human smuggling attempt, which left 19 illegal immigrants dead inside a tractor-trailer in Victoria, Texas, director/writer Cary Fukunaga felt there was a lot more to say about immigration.

In his first feature film, “Sin Nombre” – produced by actors Gael García Bernal (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) and Diego Luna (“Milk”) – fukunaga follows a young girl from Honduras named Sayra (Paulina Gaitán) as she travels with her estranged father atop a train through Central America and México to get to the U.S. During her journey, she meets Willy (Edgar Flores), a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, who must escape México after he kills one of his own.

During an interview at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Fukunaga, 31, who is half Japanese and half Swedish, talked about his interest in the topic of immigration and what it was like riding the trains alone when he was researching for the project.

I heard you are fluent in Spanish. Where did you learn the language?

Growing up in the Bay area and México. Partially through making this film, I forced myself to make my Spanish as on-point as possible, technically especially. We did everything in Spanish on the film.

What kept you interested in immigration after you made “Victoria para Chino?”

They’re kind of the same project. Even though they’re two different stories, they’re inseparable films. The short film led to the feature film because researching for the short film, I learned about this part of the journey – the part that is less talked about.

Usually when you get a Latino-themed film, it’s by a Latino director. Did you worry that people might overlook “Sin Nombre” when they saw your last name?

I think there are some Fukunagas in México, too. (Laughs). I didn’t really even think about it. I come from a pretty multicultural background and family. In my mind, national and cultural borders don’t represent real obstacles in telling stories. I don’t think twice about that part of it. If it’s a story that interests me, I’m going to see what I can do.

What kind of research did you do particularly on the Mara Salvatrucha gang?

There was a lot of visual research. Both the makeup and production design departments had walls and walls of reference material to go by.

Did any of the real gang members you worked with on the film voice any concerns about how they were being portrayed?

No. Like Edward James Olmos after “American Me?” [Olmos was sent death threats by members of the Mexican mafia after the film debuted in 1992]. Well, I am traveling around under an alias. (Laughs). Maybe I can finally get a pistol in New York City. I actually went to the shooting range a few days ago. I’m pretty good with a .40 caliber.

Where do your characters come from? Are they composites from your research?

Everyone is a definitely composite and everyone is sort of a facet of me as well. I didn’t know I had a little homie inside me – an inner homie.

Did that attitude come out anytime during production?

Yes, when I had to lay down the law. (Laughs) Nah, I’m pretty laid back on set. I’m energetic, but I never throw tantrums or anything.

Was it your intention to make the train becomes its own character?

Especially at the beginning, I really wanted the train to feel larger than life. The night I decided to ride the train, I had to ride it by myself. My friends didn’t want to go with me after they found out how dangerous the trip was. I wanted to exaggerate and accentuate the audio and visual experience because this train is like this headless sort of creature. You don’t know who is running it. It’s like this conveyer belt in the jungle.

How many times did you ride the train? How long did it take?

Traveling across Chiapas took two nights and a day. From the Oaxaca border to Veracruz it took a whole evening and night. I rode the train three times. Each time I learned a little something. During these long boring hours, I got to hang out with immigrants and see how they passed the time and bonded with people. I was living the vagabond life. I definitely could not have written the film if I didn’t ride the train.

What does a trip like that do to you physically?

It’s definitely taxing. This film has definitely taken a couple of years [of my life] and part of my hairline. I think it really drains you more emotionally than physically. The first time I rode the train, an immigrant got killed. Being a part of that and then having to leave them was difficult. I have the luxury of continuing on with my life. They have fewer options.