September 11, 2019

Sweet Sounds and Evil Clowns: What to Watch in Athens This Week

Movie Dope

IT CHAPTER TWO: I already told you, glasses means "It," no glasses means "Stranger Things."

For those who enjoy celluloid more than pigskin, ’tis the season of smaller crowds, especially during UGA games. Headlining this week’s new releases are The Goldfinch, an adaptation of Donna Tartt’s 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner about a terrorist bombing and a famous Dutch painting, and Hustlers, in which J-Lo shows audiences how in shape she is at 50 as a stripping Wall Street Robin Hood. Ciné gets the Sundance hit Brittany Runs a Marathon, starring the very funny Jillian Bell (“Workaholics”) as a hard partier who decides to get in shape, and the music documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, about which you can read more below. 

Through Sept. 12, you can still catch two documentaries and two horror films at Ciné. Sundance’s biggest 2019 winner was Honeyland, a documentary about Europe’s last female beehunter, while Maiden’s subject is Tracy Edwards, the 24-year-old charter-boat cook who went on to lead the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Ari Aster’s already epic horror film Midsommar gets even longer in a 171-minute director’s cut, and Jennifer Kent follows up The Babadook with The Nightingale. On Sept. 12, catch a sneak preview of my most anticipated film of the fall, Downton Abbey, in which everyone—upstairs and downstairs—returns to the manor for a visit from the king and queen. On Sept. 17, Ciné screens the Japanese zomcom One Cut of the Dead, about a film crew running into real zombies while filming a low-budget zombie movie in an old World War II facility. 

The Georgia Museum of Art continues its 1930s American Film Series with 1973’s Paper Moon on Sept. 12. The film stars father-daughter duo Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, who, at 10, remains the youngest competitive Oscar winner. Flicker’s Rudy Ray Moore Month continues with the 1976 Dolemite sequel The Human Tornado on Sept. 11. UGA’s Middle East Film Series screens the 1996 biopic Nasser 56 at LeConte Hall on Sept. 11. On Sept. 13 and 15, you can enjoy a Christoph Waltz double feature of Alita: Battle Angel and Inglourious Basterds at Tate. Sept. 12’s Morning Matinee at the Oconee County Library is last year’s Best Picture winner, Green Book.

IT CHAPTER TWO (R) Twenty-seven years later, the Losers Club—Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier (Bill Hader), Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), Eddie Kasprak (James Ransone) and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean)—returns to Derry for a final showdown with the evil entity choosing to disguise itself as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård). 

At three hours, including previews, It Chapter Two struggles to maintain its momentum through a middle section dominated by solo ventures undertaken by each grown-up club member, especially considering how much more dynamic the kids are. Amazing casting aside—Ransone and Bean look particularly like their characters’ younger versions—the dangers faced by the adults are way less interesting and, oddly, too comic. 

Director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman interestingly reimagine Stephen King’s epic of childhood terror as a latter Nightmare on Elm Street entry; peeling Nightmare 5: The Dream Child posters dominate the mise-en-scene. Too bad the effects on the Freddy-influenced nightmare creatures are too large, obviously fake and not scary. The old lady monster threatening Beverly will bring to mind Pee Wee’s Large Marge, which is not a compliment in this context. 

The filmmakers retain too much of the mean-spiritedness that haunts some of King’s ’80s output, as well as the horror movies released toward that decade’s end, and too little of the terror. The nastiness of It Chapter Two makes the movie feel like a relic before its time. Still, despite some unpleasantness and the repetitive blunt trauma of its overstuffed last act, the whole leaves a better impression than its parts. I wonder if it will watch better or worse when viewed right after its superior, if anticlimactic, predecessor.

LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE (PG-13) Prior to watching the excellent documentary from The Celluloid Closet’s Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, my knowledge of Linda Ronstadt was sparse. Her hits were familiar, but her story was not. The documentary reinvigorates the legend of who Bonnie Raitt describes as the first female rock star, though her voice defied genre—she won Grammys for country, pop and Mexican-American performances. 

Now suffering from Parkinson’s, Ronstadt tells her story with the help of friends and old footage. A music doc so tightly focused on one musician seems like it would only appeal to longtime Ronstadt fans, but anyone interested in the music of the ’70s and ’80s will learn an interesting nugget. Plus the music, old (“You’re No Good”) and relatively new-ish (“Don’t Know Much”), is incomparable.