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‘IT: Chapter 2’ Teaser Trailer — A Shot-By-Shot Analysis

The ‘IT Chapter 2’ trailer promises a similar look and feel to the original with McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader headlining to lead the Losers Club.

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The first teaser trailer for the highly anticipated horror sequel IT: Chapter 2 released this week, giving us our first glimpse into the world of Derry twenty-seven years after the events of the original. Coming on the heels of the massive box-office of its predecessor, the continuation of the remake of one of Stephen King’s most notorious horror stories promises a similar look and feel, while the story of the Losers Club expects to pick up where it left off, sometime after the kids defeated IT and went their separate ways (in true Stand By Me fashion). Now adults, the Losers Club reconvenes and must lean on each other one last time to defeat the returning evil. Watch for yourself:

Here’s what we noticed from the new trailer:

Beverly Comes Home

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We open with Beverley returning to the apartment she grew up in, and an elderly woman greeting her. Beverly notes how much cleaner the place feels since leaving her abusive father. She then searches her old room, where she finds the “January embers” postcard from Ben. The shot cuts to young Beverly coveting the same postcard, proving she still cherishes the words to this day. While this establishes a nostalgic feeling for Beverly, the mood quickly turns as the audience sees the elderly woman eerily standing at the end of the hall, only to walk into the kitchen in a manner all too familiar to that of everyone’s favorite dancing clown.

Tea Time

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Beverly and the woman — apparently named “Mrs. Kersh” — sit down to have tea. Although the mood shifts back to a calmer one for a brief period, there is clearly a hint of suspicion from Beverly. During their small talk, the elderly woman furthers the tension when she states that in Derry, “no one who dies here ever really dies,” and follows this up with a spine-chillingly long stare. The scene focuses on her face so uncomfortably long that one could believe the trailer had frozen. We can finally take a collective breath when the woman asks Beverly another question about how she feels about being back in in town, but the relief is quickly stymied when the camera pans to Mrs. Kersh fanning at her chest, revealing her rotting skin. Beverly attempts to leave, but Mrs. Kersh’s insistence forces her to stay. It is unclear if this Mrs. Kersh will play a role consequential to the plot, but so far it appears that she is just another one of Pennywise’s puppets, used to instill fear into the members of Losers Club.

Sinister History

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As Mrs. Kersh leaves for the kitchen, Beverly asks about the pictures on her walls. Mrs. Kersh specifically uses this time to talk about her immigrant father, but whether the tale is true or not is left to speculation. As Beverly analyzes a particular photograph of a man and a young girl, Kersh tells her that her father joined the circus. We can also see an out-of-focus “Mrs. Kersh”  — who appears to be naked — peeking around the corner as Beverly observes the photo.

The photograph reveals a man and a girl, who can be presumed to be his daughter, Mrs. Kersh, as she is still heard talking about her father. However, as the picture zooms in, Beverly finally realizes who she has been talking to the whole time. Pennywise’s face is grinning back at her, as if to signal his attack. Here the trend of seeing Pennywise’s face in old pictures continues from the first movie. Whether the man in the photograph truly is Pennywise or it is an illusion used by the clown to scare his victims, the implication is that Pennywise has been part of Derry’s history for a long time.

Beverly is Attacked

As the ruse falls and the music intensifies in true horror film fashion, Pennywise attacks as a naked Mrs. Kersh, running at Beverly with a loud growl. We don’t see Pennywise/Mrs. Kersh’s face, but it is easy to imagine what kind of hideous form he has taken based on what we have seen from his shape-shifting powers before.

The Losers Club

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At this point, the trailer launches into a more traditional trailer mode, with faster jump cuts and multiple scenes of the same subjects. The first thing we see is the members of the Losers Club together as adults — Isaiah Mustafa as Mike, Bill Hader as Richie, James McAvoy as Bill, Chastain again as Bev, and Jay Ryan as Ben. However, two of the members of the group are missing: Stan and Eddie. This could be because it is early into the film, and all of the characters have yet to convene, but there could be other reasons specific to Stan and Eddie’s characters choosing not to come. Meanwhile, the members of the group who are present seem to be staring into a downtown shop window, seeing their childhood reflections staring back at them. Although probably more symbolic that figurative, this indicates that the group will all have to work together to defeat Pennywise, similar to when they were kids. This also shows us that the kids themselves will likely play a vital role in the film, be it through flashback or through some other means of telling the story.

Still One Missing

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Richie (Hader) calls the meeting of the Losers Club to order as they all convene at a local Chinese restaurant. The group adds one more member with Eddie, but Stan is still nowhere in sight…

Georgie Haunts Bill

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Here we get our first solo shot of James McAvoy as Bill. As he stares into what looks to be the same gutter from which his kid brother Georgie was taken, we are presented with an ominous looking shot of ‘Georgie’ reaching out to his brother with the infamous sailboat still in hand. Although clearly a ploy by Pennywise to torture Bill, the shot itself is a particularly great one. The use of total darkness completely obscuring Georgie’s face is impressively haunting. It truly communicates that Bill is still wrestling with what happened to his brother up to the present day.

Return to the Sewers

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The Losers club inevitably ends up back in the sewers, where Pennywise lives. The final stand against Pennywise took place here, and the establishing shot of the sewer essentially sets the stage for the fight to come, while at the same time recalls the events from the previous film — namely, the environment in which lifeless children’s bodies were left floating in the pale soft light cast from above. Interestingly, this time there appears to be no bodies hanging in mid-air.

Richie Still Hates Clowns

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Another highly anticipated role being taken on by a recognizable face is Richie, played by Bill Hader. Here we see Richie staring in horror at the sight of Pennywise in a shot that is emphasized even greater with the use of frozen background elements to enhance the creep factor. Derry residents behind Richie remain frozen in time as he watches the demonic clown levitate over a Paul Bunyan Statue on a geometric collection of red balloons.

Pennywise

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The antagonist himself gets a couple back-to-back shots. The first reveals the clown’s gravity-defying tactics as he pops out of an unexpected location in order to taunt a young Mike. The second shot is interesting, because it focuses solely on Pennywise, with no other characters in frame. The old-timey setting of the environment leads me to believe that this could be a flashback to Pennywise from another time in history (note the kerosene lamp),  but this could also take place at the old abandoned house where the Losers Club first fought the clown. Either way, the scene is dominated primarily by Pennywise, who is for some reason peeling his clown makeup to reveal another form. Whether he is using this as a tactic to frighten a victim remains to be seen.

A Carnival!

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What better place to release a demonic clown’s reign of terror than on an unsuspecting carnival? Rather than establishing a new environment, there isn’t much else to say about this shot. However, Bill running at full speed through the carnival is a good indication that it could play a significant role in the story to come.

Bill x Bev

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The romantic subplot between Bill and Bev continues where it left off when they were kids. Of course, things are different now, namely that Bill has a wife. However, it is clear that IT: Chapter 2 will explore the connection between these two characters as the events of the main story play out. No doubt it will complicate things, but the relationship carrying over from the events of the first film rather than being thrown together in the second strictly to create conflict gives the story more context and makes it more believable.

Hello!

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After a few more shots of the Losers Club banding together in the sewer, the trailer finally end with a scene of a young girl wandering under some bleachers. She appears to be chasing a firefly when it is suddenly engulfed by two gloved hands. The hands, of course, belong to Pennywise, as he attempts to lure in the girl. After the hands disappear into the darkness, they immediately open to shine a nightmarish light onto the face of the clown. The use of lighting, directing, and performance of Bill Skarsgård transforms the simple utterance of the word “Hello!” into a terrifying and foreboding tone, which all but seals the fate of the young girl.

***

IT: Chapter 2 is sure to deliver a thrilling and horrific-filled ride, promising a similar look and feel to the original, along with brilliant camera-work and haunting sound design. IT: Chapter 2 is slated for release on September 6, 2019.

Garrett's favorite types of games have depth. Whether it be through story elements, gameplay, or a unique combination of the two, he is always eager to find the next iteration. Furthermore, Garrett enjoys all types of media that are thought-provoking yet entertaining. Rather than just sharing this passion with his friends, he finds writing about media he finds interesting as a perfect outlet to dictate the way these media affect him.

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‘Rojo’ Takes Carefully Composed Aim at Argentina’s Murky Past

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Getting off to a creepy and crackling start, Benjamín Nasihtat’s Rojo can’t quite live up to its opening promise while admirably trying to navigate a muddied maze of vague suspicion around a small town in Argentina during the 1970s before the coup. Still, though the story bumps into a few dead ends before finally emerging into some light at the finish, exquisite compositions — punctuated by occasional bursts that mimic the time period’s cinematic style — and a quietly simmering performance from star Darío Grandinetti manage to keep things engaging enough throughout this low-key thriller.

Rojo vacation

After a mysterious opening shot in which an abandoned house in a pleasant neighborhood is calmly looted by various locals, Rojo directs our attention to a cozy, upscale restaurant where respectable lawyer Claudio sits alone, waiting for his wife, courteously acknowledged by other similarly well-off patrons. He draws the ire of another customer, who abrasively chides Claudio for occupying a table when he is not ready to order, thus depriving those who are. Pretending to take the higher road, Claudio gives up his seat, but can’t resist also giving this rude young man a lecture of his own — one that despite its refined vocabulary, smacks of hostile superiority. From there, an altercation ensues that will not only haunt Claudio for the rest of the film, but also stand for a certain societal rot that took over a country.

The sequence is chilling in its callousness, the way in which a person is removed from a restaurant — and a community — with nary a blink of an eye; soon, everyone is back to chattering away, enjoying their meals as if a mere pest had entered and was quickly shooed away. Beneath their civilized faces, however, their are subtle signs of deep unease. Rojo expertly creates a tension here that it will then go on to very slowly dilute, as more and more tangents are given prominence in an attempt to reinforce already clear themes without shedding new light on them.

Rojo locker room

The paranoia and guilt lurking beneath nearly every interaction in Rojo serves to bring attention to the various disappearances that take place and are alluded to throughout the story. That fear of being “disappeared” without a trace is a clear reference to the “los desaparecidos” — political dissidents from the era who either fled the country or were kidnapped and murdered in the wake of a military coup that wanted to silence opposition. The premise that one can suddenly say the wrong thing and summarily be erased from society while everyone looks the other way is an inherently scary one, and that pervading atmosphere goes a long way toward making Rojo highly watchable.

However, once the general idea is firmly and skillfully established, Rojo seems to have little place else to go with it. A subplot involving selling the house from the prologue is mildly interesting in how it portrays the opportunistic behavior that capitalized on atrocity, but the process eventually fizzles out. American rodeo cowboys pay a visit, alluding to U.S. involvement during the coup, but not much else. A trip to the beach perhaps shows a bit of the pressure that gets to those who have had to turn a blind eye for so long, but little else is garnered outside a stylish depiction of a solar eclipse that washes the screen symbolic red. A teenage romance seems like it’s reaching for something important to say about dominance and jealousy, but can’t come up with more than another disappearance — and of a character who might as well be a nobody regardless, for the few minutes they are on screen.

A missing doctor, a magician’s act, a church confrontation; the power of the vanishings is undermined somewhat by their frequency. But maybe that’s the point — that we all can be desensitized to injustice.

Rojo teens

Still, whether or not one finds meaning, it’s hard to take one’s eyes off such gorgeously composed images as Nasihtat has crafted here. Though its plot often seems to lack focus, Rojo still emits a feeling of pinpoint exactitude through pictures. Nearly every frame is a joy to examine, creating a palpable sense that angles and staging have been meticulously prepared to convey important information key to unlocking the script’s mysteries. Restrained use of zooms and freeze frames also help inject some period style into the proceedings, and can be effectively startling. Holding it all together though is the repressed performance of Darío Grandinetti, who masterfully finds the quiet fear and hypocrisy in a certain kind of ‘upright’ citizen. As the various pressures grow (including from a big-city TV investigator played by Alfredo Castro), will he be able to hold it together?

The payoff is a bit anti-climactic, but Rojo has already been trending that way since the beginning. Nevertheless, it does conclude on a more explicit note, and there is a great visual pleasure to be had from simply watching this story unfold in such sharp, capable filmmaking hands.

‘Rojo’ is now available on digital formats from 1844 Entertainment.

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‘Queen of Hearts’ is a Frank and Difficult Look at Sexual Desire

Trine Dyrholm is typically brilliant in Danish film ‘Queen of Hearts’ — playing an older woman embarking on an affair with her stepson.

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Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts starts with a rather banal scene. Anne (Trine Dyrholm) walks through the woods with her dog. Her children are just outside her large, glass-heavy house. She goes inside, where her husband, Peter (Magnus Krepper), says police have called and he has to go. She looks outside at some barren trees, dramatic strings play, and the title credits come on; it’s a seemingly innocuous moment curdled into something far more ominous. 

This opening salvo with something moody and dark hiding within the banality and reliability of a simple family scene (later revealed to be in the future) sums up the Official Danish Best International Film submission Queen of Hearts as a whole. This is a film of bad decisions, loneliness, and creaky moral boundaries, interrogating the mores of modern womanhood against the backdrop of supposed domestic perfection. 

Our protagonist, Anne, is a lawyer who works with children who have been abused. She knows how to talk to young victims of rape and neglect, balancing a firm sense of what’s right with the necessary language to give these children hope. But she has difficulties switching from work to home, unable to give her twin daughters the affection they deserve. One way for anyone to switch off and focus on life outside of work, of course, is to engage in some form of intimacy; yet, her hypocritical, workaholic doctor husband has little time to give her any attention in the bedroom. 

When Peter’s teenage son, Gustav (Gustav Lindh), turns up to stay for the summer, Anne is immediately attracted to his moodiness and sexual swagger. Their slow seduction scenes seem to all come from different movies: porno (he suddenly comes out of the shower in the towel), summer indie drama (a scene in a lake with splashing water and an ecstatic soundtrack), and eventually horror (a writhing, overly staged sex scene in the dark that is extremely shocking in its frankness). 

These shifts in tone reflect the film’s queasy study in shifting sympathies, making Queen of Hearts a modern morality play baked in typically Scandinavian seriousness. Is Anne simply engaging in a harmless affair, rediscovering her long-dormant sexuality? Or is the age difference simply too far? With echoes of both The Hunt (2012) and the women-focused sex-dramas of Lars von Trier, it is sure to provoke a mixture of praise for its brazen female sexual gaze, and eventually disgust for where this gaze finally takes us. 

Queen of Hearts

Most of us assume that we are good people, even as we are engaging in less than savoury activities. It may look bad to people on the outside, but we have our reasons. The ever-reliable Trine Dyrholm turns in another mesmerising performance here, balancing her own lack of sexual self-confidence against her outwardly authoritative presence as a lawyer. Even if we cannot agree with what she does, Dyrholm successfully conveys her character’s complexity, making her sympathetic throughout. But just as we can never judge ourselves objectively, we can never know the ultimate effect our actions may have on others, especially in a dynamic such as this, leading to some bitter results. 

Queen of Hearts asks the viewer to never make assumptions, to think outside of clichés, and to really dig deep into the true heart of the matter. Director May el-Toukhy knows she has strong actors and a strong screenplay here, employing minimal tricks to just let them get on and really chew into the material. While unlikely to make it into the final Oscar shortlist, Queen of Hearts deserves a lot of credit for its utter brazenness and steadfast commitment to its difficult premise.

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‘Ford v Ferrari’ Drives Fast with Little Under the Hood

A classic Hollywood drama with fast cars and a stellar Christian Bale performance that feels great despite a lack of emotional substance.

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Ford v Ferrari

Many directors always struggle with producers and other businessmen to retain their vision. What might work most for that vision may not be what focus tests and audiences have proven to enjoy, so the film gets reworked and reworked until it becomes a box office hit, and potentially retains a director’s intent. Ford v Ferrari doesn’t necessarily feel like that — this is a James Mangold film in many regards — but by the end of its story of vision and skill versus marketing and business agendas, Mangold’s latest wrestles with placing trust in an individual against an entire body of suits.

When Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is approached by Ford Motors to create a car fast enough to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (an annual racing event where drivers go all day and night around the same track), he is forced to fight tooth-and-nail to get the best driver for the job: Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Shelby’s fight is singular; he wants to win the Le Mans, and knows that Miles is the only one who can do it. Yet, Ford Motors is still a company with many eyes on them, and employing the hot-headed Miles as a driver could be disastrous. So begins a struggle for Shelby and Miles to have their desires met by a company looking at the bottom line. That struggle — one that underscores every decision made by the characters in the film — is what sits at the core of Ford v Ferrari, and keeps things interesting. Set that aside, however, and the film loses a lot of momentum.

Ford v Ferrari

Still, the racing will grip audiences throughout. The final Le Mans challenge runs for a decent portion of Ford v Ferrari and is engaging throughout, but there are several other races and practices where Mangold’s craftsmanship as a filmmaker shines bright. Miles sits in the driver’s seat of all of these moments, and Bale’s performance is never stronger than when his character has that need for speed. Miles is a passionate driver with pure intentions, and Bale gives him a lot of wit and heart in between huge swings of emotion. It’s a performance that stands tall but doesn’t distract, instead meshing extremely well with the action.

Meanwhile, the other performances are also solid. Matt Damon is very good in the role of Shelby, though his character is quite often reserved because he has to be. When you put him against Bale, however, it’s clear that Shelby pales to the race car driver’s fleshed-out character, as we follow the latter’s family, his rejections and successes, and his pure heart. In the backdrop is a wide array of supporting actors, including Caitriona Balfe as Mollie Miles, Josh Lucas as the thorn in Shelby’s side, Jon Bernthal playing a standard Jon Bernthal role, and Tracy Letts chewing up scenery whenever he can as Henry Ford II. Letts and Lucas in particular give great caricatured performances, planting Ford v Ferrari into a more standard Hollywood drama.

Ford v Ferrari

Largely that’s the problem: Ford v Ferrari is a technical achievement with some incredible craftsmanship and performances that just never feels as great at slow times as it does when it’s moving past 7000 RPMs. It has a need for speed, and the pacing shows that, but it also doesn’t really rise very high above what’s needed to please an audience. Mangold is great at deriving emotional substance out of a subject, but a lot of that in Ford v Ferrari is left on the shoulders of Bale’s performance. Instead, the film focuses heavily on the bureaucratic side of things, and how that hinders talented people from being who they are destined to be. While fun to watch, there isn’t much more that will have Ford v Ferrari lingering with audiences. Instead, this will be a movie that resonates with racing fans and those that struggle against restrictions, keeping general audience satisfied in their big Hollywood dramas for the time being.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on September 14 as part of our coverage of The Toronto International Film Festival.

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