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Reviews: Creepy clowning and futuristic sci-fi
September 27, 2017

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IT

Lucifer's green goo has fallen to number two. A serial killer clown claimed the #1 position as top earning U.S. horror motion picture. Stephen King's "It," first a TV mini series, surpassed "The Exorcist," which when released stirred lots of wrenching buzz about a possessed young woman (Linda Blair) vomiting demon gook on a priest who is attempting to pour holy water on her.

1972's "The Exorcist" totaled roughly $233 million at the box office. Projections had "It" besting the record on or about Sept. 21 of this year. "The Exorcist" still has a slim worldwide lead, but "It" will likely continue with strong cinema holding power well into November.

Warner Bros. acknowledged that so-called 'horror hybrids' like "Jaws" or "The Sixth Sense" have amassed higher numbers which "It" will eventually slide past.

Hold up your hands. Nearly everyone knows who the clown is, right?

Pennywise, the antithesis of circus laughs, as played by Bill Skarsgard known for "Atomic Blonde," "Allegiant," and "Battlecreek," captures a psycho subtle Pied Piper of seduction nuance. It's the chilling laugh and welcoming eyes that transform him (yes?) into the everyman boogie man jaunting outside the subconscious.

Having watched King's monster crawling in the minds of young teens, a bit of sinister symbolism swirls (even if it demands a second viewing option) extending beyond Pennywise's 27-year curse enveloping Derry, Maine. He immediately rises to Hannibal Lecter, Jason, Freddy or Jigsaw malevolence. He's a little Joker (Heath Ledger version) inspired, too.

Set in the 1980s, you know the simplistic intro: Bill (the protagonist played by Jaeden Lieberher) loses his brother Georgie after he brings Bill glue from a scary cellar then goes playing in a strong rain where his paper boat floats into a sewer. Reaching for the boat, Georgie encounters Pennywise, a childish dancing entity dressed as a clown whose bloody tongue envelops its victims.

Director Andy Muschietti encompasses lightness and darkness to establish the spreading fears as more signs appear for a missing child. Darkness combines with bleakness and a propensity for lower camera angles which enhance dread and helplessness. George's lure into the sewer is as much about a gradual seduction as the swoosh when the kid loses his arm and falls into the drain.

Flash forward to the last day of class at Derry Middle School which will bring Bill, Eddie, Stanley, Richie, Mike, Ben and Beverly together as they endure and eventually fight off a crew of bullies. Each of the kids have various frailties linked in part to family circumstances.

Pennywise fluctuates from a real to a potentially imagined demonic character, especially when he changes shapes appearing inside the bodies of others and jolting a hellish painting to life. These encounters - whether apparitions or fiendish spaghetti strands - exacerbate their lack of confidence, physical ineptness and fears (a burning house, lepers, a dead brother).

Muschietti's tempting, tense and suspenseful direction strongly benefits from screenwriters who craftily weave the jump-in-your-seat horrors along an initially secondary coming of age theme.

Bev (Sophia Lillis) has a sense of fragility molded over a cage fighter. She's shouldering parental abuse along with a mounting rage to escape her family circumstances and whip sexist standards. Bev emerges as a quasi-mom and leader of the pack, which hints at a still controversial portion of King's novel: The Losers' physical bonding with her.

(Note: Concerning the scene in the novel, Steven King wrote on a fan page, "I wasn't really thinking of the sexual aspect of it Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood.")

Credit Muschietti's inventiveness for powerful insights which carve survival skills, confidence and future maturity. King himself enthusiastically endorsed the screenplay where the boy's muse intervenes with "stop, focus" at a pivotal moment.

"It" has embraced a radical balance - scares from an underworld well, desperation in the dripping pipes of a sewer system - segue to the bright sun shining over the marquee of a downtown theater playing an iconic 1989 double feature. Locations such as a school, library or swimming hole all have overlapping darkness, symbolically insecurely inviting Pennywise's frightening, daunting influence into their daily routines.

GEOSTORM AND BLADE RUNNER 2049

While Pennywise intrudes into each individual's definition of "fear," Warner Bros. had to modify its marketing for the mid-October disaster movie, "Geostorm." A rogue satellite that turns weather catastrophic began its promotion as hurricanes pelted the southern United States and Caribbean.

Astronauts learn that the end of the world scenario has been intentionally programmed so while people race to avoid stormy climate change, scientists chase manipulations to prevent the apocalypse.

Before "Geostorm" debuts in mid-October, Harrison Ford returns as hard drinking cop Rick Deckard. He's known as a blade runner for hunting down so-called replicants - genetically engineered robots who think they are human - but on the earlier mission fell for a synthetic creation named Rachael.

Little is known about Blade Runner 2049 except that special agent K (Ryan Gosling) teams with Ford.

Based on the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," the original is set in 2019. Bots are built by a secretive, deep pocketed corporation and they labor at tasks humans no longer desire (such as Pris, a pleasure robot).

Futurist and physicist Michio Kaku said during a Wired interview: "In Blade Runner, the people were misfits, and the robots did the dirty work. It shocked people." So did the proximity of the technology - it was not far, far away. The troubled Los Angeles appeared to be a "future" that viewers might experience in their lifetimes.

Gosling caught the film as a teen in Canada and said, "It's a film that haunts you, because the future feels possible."

During the 35 years since the first Blade Runner opened, robotics have moved forward granting glimpses of the pleasureful (Pris) and working humanoids performing simple tasks (receptionist, hotel clerk, demonstrator).

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