Tag Archives: James Ransone

The Black Phone (2022) Review

the-black-phone-trailer

The Black Phone

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror, violence, domestic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Mason Thames as Finney Blake
Madeleine McGraw as Gwen
Ethan Hawke as The Grabber
Jeremy Davies as Terrence
James Ransone as Max
Director: Scott Derrickson

Finney Shaw is a shy but clever 13-year-old boy who’s being held in a soundproof basement by a sadistic, masked killer. When a disconnected phone on the wall starts to ring, he soon discovers that he can hear the voices of the murderer’s previous victims — and they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

The Black Phone was one of my most anticipated movies of 2022. It would be director Scott Derrickson’s return to horror for the first time in 8 years, it has a simple but interesting premise, and Ethan Hawke as the main villain. While it could’ve been better, I did enjoy it overall.

QeCzdNHUaB9iraFhHZg7J7

The plot takes its time, but for it was, it is an effectively creepy and dark horror movie. I am aware that The Black Phone is based on a short story, but feels a lot like a Stephen King story; bullies, alcoholic fathers, scary killers with masks, vague and unexplained supernatural elements, the only thing missing was it being set in Maine. The story is very familiar and cliched for a horror movie. Familiarity isn’t necessarily bad, but even if you don’t watch the incredibly revealing trailer, at a certain point, it becomes obvious how the rest of the plot is going to play out. But if you read it as a Stephen King throwback, then it plays a little better. It is fairly entertaining, and it was funnier than I expected it to be. However, the script is a bit of a mixed bag. For its nasty premise, it almost felt a little too tame. It could’ve gone darker when it came to the serial killer stuff, and from Sinister we know that Derrickson is capable of going there. However, my biggest issue is that much of the script felt underdeveloped and was missing something, it needed to expand or elaborate on some things. It juggles multiple different threads, including trauma, kidnappings, and psychic elements, but none of them are really handled that greatly. There are some supernatural elements, from the psychic dreams of the main character’s sister, to the voices of the killer’s victims calling on the black phone in the room that he’s trapped in. Not that I wanted a big info dump on everything, but they needed some level of explanation, at least more than what we got. As it was, the supernatural elements did take away from the real world setting and themes that the movie had previously established. The aspect involving the killer called “The Grabber” is also flawed, mainly with his motive. Initially you think that there is more to the Grabber’s deal than just killing children, given that he keeps his victims down in the basement. However, that’s not the case, and we don’t learn anything about him. So you’re waiting in anticipation for a backstory or reveal that just never comes. The third act doesn’t resolve things that well either; the ending is really abrupt and the last scene is particularly tact on and out of place.

06

Ethan Hawke is menacing as The Grabber. Most of the time we don’t see his face, we usually just see him with a mask on. I understand why they used him sparingly, but I think we needed a lot more Hawke screentime. Jeremy Davies is also good in his part. However, it is the kids who stand out the most. Mason Thames is good as the lead child who is captured and is trying to escape, and Madeleine McGraw is especially great as the sister who receives the psychic visions.

The-Black-Phone-Mason-Thames-as-Finney-Shaw-and-Madeleine-McGraw-as-Gwen-Shaw-1200x800

Scott Derrickson once again is very good at directing a movie, especially a horror. I like the visual look of the movie, especially in how it places itself in the 70s. The dream sequences had a distinct look to it, reminiscent to the home tapes from Sinister. I liked them all except one scene involving pinball which was very out of place. The scares aren’t special but were effective enough. They didn’t feel like cliched jump scares and it was refreshing for a recent horror movie to not be so heavy and reliant on jump scares. Finally, the Grabber masks that Hawke wears are very memorable and unique.

1361547-The-Black-Phone-4k-Ultra-HD-Wallpaper

The Black Phone has its problems and considering the potential it had, it was a little disappointing. It felt like it needed a few more drafts to flesh out some of the elements that it introduced. However, Scott Derrickson’s direction is effective, and the performances are great, and they make up for much of the issues.

It Chapter Two (2019) Review

Time: 169 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough
Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh
Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom
Bill Hader as Richie Tozier
Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon
James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak
Andy Bean as Stanley Uris
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown
Director: Andy Muschietti

Defeated by members of the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise — now more powerful than ever.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

It Chapter Two was one of my most anticipated movies of 2019. The first It was quite good, and from what I can tell adapted part of Stephen King’s classic novel to the big screen rather faithfully. However, that movie only told half of the story, whether it still worked depended on the second half. With the same team returning, and the likes of James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain as part of the older cast, I was looking forward to it. It’s ambitious, very well directed, the cast was great, and a satisfying conclusion to the It story.

I’d advise people who are seeing It Chapter Two to watch the first movie somewhat recently beforehand, it’s best going into the movie with Chapter One fresh in your mind. As for people who haven’t seen the first movie at all, Chapter Two is not a movie you can just go into without seeing the first, you’ll be completely lost. There is a long period in the first half that’s necessary to the story and characters but I’m not sure it works as well as it should’ve. It’s mainly consisting of the main characters going back to places they’ve been to as children and remembering certain things. There’s a purpose for doing this with all the characters, however the problem is that for the most part all the scenes follow the same structure: the adult character goes to that familiar place, have a flashback which usually ends in an encounter with Pennywise, and then in present day coming across Pennywise themselves. These scenes are necessary for the plot, it’s just that it felt a little too repetitive. I heard something along the lines that there’d be a version which put the two movies together, placing the scenes in chronological order and that should be interesting. Despite all the things about what I just said and some of the scenes meandering a bit, I was really invested with the movie and the characters, even more so than the first movie. This movie is really ambitious to cover it all in one movie, and most of it works. All the build up in the first two acts really pays off, as the third act is fantastic, won’t go into depth with that here. There are some changes from the books, some of it was shot and removed, others didn’t make it to being filmed. For example, there are subplots like with Beverly’s husband and Bill’s wife that were in the book but not in the movie, I haven’t read the book but I think that it was a good call not to feature them in the movie. Last thing to note, as people have no doubt seen and sometimes complained about, this movie is almost 3 hours long. Considering that the book is 1000 pages long, it’s not really too surprising that it’s this long. If you’re invested in the story, that won’t be a problem for you because it wasn’t a problem for me. Looking back on everything, I’m not sure what exactly I’d cut from the movie, there’s a lot here that’s necessary for the story, even if some of it could’ve been handled differently. Besides, I’d much rather a lengthy movie that takes its time with its story, then a 2 hour 20 minute (studio mandated) version that feels really cut down. Some people have asked whether splitting it into 2 parts was necessary, and looking at everything I’d definitely say yes.

The cast is all around great, with James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean playing the older versions of the Loser’s Club from the first movie. They actually seemed like older versions of the younger cast (James Ransone particularly seems like an older Jack Dylan Grazer), and when it comes to casting adult versions of child actors, this is one of the best examples I’ve seen in movies. I generally liked what they did with the characters. I also liked what they did with Mike’s (Isaiah Mustafa) character, from what I can tell he really didn’t get to do much in the book, here they gave him more to work with, with him being the only one who stayed in Derry and really the one out of the group who knows the most about Pennywise and what they might need to do in order to kill him. Ever since the movie started being shown, there has been particular praise going towards Bill Hader, and for very good reason. He not only delivers a lot of the funniest moments of the movie, he also delivers some of the more emotional scenes of the movie. I admit I’m not familiar with much of his work (no I haven’t seen Barry yet) but after seeing him here, I really want to check them out. You also see the younger cast appear often in flashbacks, and as usual they are very good in their roles. You don’t see as much of Pennywise, or at least compared to the amount in the first movie, but Bill Skarsgård is great in his scenes. Unfortunately yet again they do tend to overuse the amount of CGI on him, even though there are parts that are absolutely necessary to use those effects, Skarsgård is more effective and scary when he’s just acting on his own without all that. Nonetheless, him and director Andy Muschietti has completely redefined Pennywise and they’ve done a great job at bringing him to the big screen. There are also a couple of cameos worth keeping your eye peeled for.

Andi Muschietti returned to direct, and he’s done a really good job yet again. It really looks great, the town of Derry even in the 2010s still really feels uneasy. If you didn’t find the first movie scary, you probably won’t be scared by the second. I don’t go into horror movies judging them by their scare factors, because usually I’m not scared by horror movies. With that said, there are some scares here that are quite predictable and done like plenty of other horror movies have done, for example the classic ‘character looks at a room when they think there’s danger and see nothing, and when they turn around there’s something scary right up in their (and the audience’s) face’ is present multiple times. I do appreciate how graphic and disturbing Muschietti is willing to take this, he really does not hold back in the darker and twisted aspects. The CGI for the most part is good but some of the larger effects are a little too cartoonish and silly at times. Benjamin Wallfisch also returns to provide the score for the sequel and it’s once again effective and elevates the movie even further.

Looking at the reactions, it seems that that It Chapter Two won’t work for everyone perfectly. Despite some of the messiness and some of the issues I have, I do like Chapter Two more than Chapter One. Although I haven’t read the book, I know about it, and I saw the miniseries, which really didn’t work. With these two movies it’s an achievement in itself that they managed to pull this off, and them being as good as they are is. Considering the amount of content that Stephen King packed into that one book (and some of the weirdness that was understandably cut from it in the movies), I think this is probably as good as an adaptation of the book as we’ll probably get. If you weren’t a fan of the first movie, I’m not sure that you’ll like the second. If you like the first movie at all however, I do think it’s at least worth checking out Chapter Two, otherwise you’ve really only seen one half of the story.