An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


It is a movie that hands us a hideous villain and an enormously appealing gang of young outcasts determined to erase his evil. Think of 1989 in the small town of Derry in Maine. Children have been disappearing and when Georgie, the beloved younger brother of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) doesn’t come home, the worried boy sets out to find him.

Bill gathers his fellow outcasts, a genuinely appealing group of pre-teens who share the fate of being bullied by older boys. They come together to search for Georgie on their bicycles and end up, of course, in a decrepit old house that demands bravery from anyone who enters. Doesn’t that sound like an ordinary scary movie? Yes, but since this is a Stephen King story, we can assume there is nothing ordinary about the way he scares us.

The boys are confronted by the hideous clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgaard) who will bedevil them throughout the film. We see buckets of blood, disfigurement, and terror. But this clown can’t equal what happens repeatedly as the music rolls along with increasing power telling us something awful is about to happen though it never comes when we expect it, but just exactly when we don’t. It does no good whatsoever to tell yourself it’s just a movie, close your eyes. It’s much too well done for that simple escape.

As we get to know the gang of boys and Beverly (Sophia Lillis) the pretty, strong girl with a heart, we sink easily into watching them grow closer as they develop their values and their courage. Instead of being peripheral to the violence, the young actors are so good that they become the sustaining focus of the movie. For me, the clown became and interruption to watching the kids.

I wanted that clown to get lost. No such luck. Stephen King has interwoven the boys and the clown so cleverly that there’s no way to ignore that clown as he spews blood through his ghastly teeth. He spins and leaps and uses the ugly weapons moviemakers love in our often grim time: special effects that increase the power of horror.

All this is delivered flawlessly by a good cast of very young actors. Jaeden Lieberher is an appealing hero with his own vulnerabilities. Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Ben is immensely engaging because he isn’t the stuff of a standard hero. He’s a unique hero. Sophia Lillis nails her part in every way.

Of the few adults in small roles, one – I won’t spoil it for you by telling you which character – is far more frightening than the clown himself. Stephen Bogaert creates a monster of a man and I am still trying to forget him.

If you can stand being subject to terror delivered with unconscionable skill, this movie just might make your day. Try to see it in a multi-speaker theater so you can enjoy whirling from left to right as unexpected maxi-sounds bombard you from all sides.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : It
Word Count : 500
Running time : 2:15
Rating : R
Date : September 10, 2017


This review was posted on September 10, 2017, in Drama, Horror.

Logan Lucky

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky is a heist movie that takes us to places loved by some and detested by others: bars, jails, and the NASCAR culture. Director Steven Soderbergh’s story about a collection of losers unfolds at a dizzyingly rapid pace – and without scene connections. If you can unravel the details, the movie is a wonder of action. You will see good acting, dozens of oddball sights, and now and then you will laugh.

At the outset we watch Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) as he is fired from his job at NASCAR for having a limp that might be blamed on the company. When Jimmy slams his helmet into a garbage bin as he leaves we know instantly that he is not either weak or easy to like. He heads for the bar where we meet his bartender brother Clyde (Adam Driver) who delights us with the delicacy and grace of the ballet he has made of mixing drinks with his one arm. They will become the team for the heist.

Jimmy’s plan unfolds in the underground confusion of the sinkholes and money tubes beneath the NASCAR track building. He spies his fortune in the transparent tubes that deliver all the money from above. Following the instruction list posted in his bedroom –Ten Rules for Robbing a Bank – he begins by recruiting Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), a simple minded jail prisoner with a gift for odd solutions to problems when no tools are available. The team of robbers is assembled.

The rest of the movie unfolds at speed beyond an ordinary ability to grasp. While the standard NASCAR culture of Memorial Day, women, flags, and alcohol unfolds upstairs, Jimmy, Joe, Clyde, and their other recruits handle the underground assignments.

The action shifts without explanation between the jail and the above and below of the racetrack. We even see Jimmy’s small daughter singing in a competition. Neither gestures nor dialogue tell us what’s happening. Everything happens too fast and without explanation. The whole thing is saved, or at least almost saved, by the sight of the good actors who decided for whatever reason to take on a heist movie propelled by a bunch of oddball rejects.

As odd as it may sound after saying that, the action is wrapped in the improbable fun of a band of losers applying their wits to a thoroughly complex, obviously impossible heist plan. The fine cast creates a group of excessively dim pals who weave their way through their multiple mistakes right in sight of the uninterested brass who ignore them because they are unimportant. Their inspired use of limited resources generates welcome laughter.

Watch a straight faced comic performance by Dwight Yoakam as the prison warden and one of comic delicacy by Hilary Swank as a deeply curious detective. And enjoy watching Daniel Craig’s simple minded crook who is smart enough to know how to break out of jail and break back in again. Your call.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Logan Lucky
Word Count : 495
Running time : 1:52
Rating : PG-13
Date : September 3, 2017