Mike at the Movies

Photo | Submitted  Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise in “It Chapter Two.”

Photo | Submitted
Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise in “It Chapter Two.”

It Chapter Two (R)

Jessica Chastain (Beverly) and James McEvoy (Bill) mark a major upgrade for the franchise, but they are still not enough to improve the quality of the film much over the original “It” (2017).

The plot is more centered this time on the 27-year reunion of “The Losers” from elementary school.

The ostensible purpose of the reunion is to kill “It” (Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise) who snatched Bill’s brother, Georgie, down a storm drain and killed him. The real reason, the film makes out, is to give the seven Losers a chance to reclaim their image as Losers and sense of purpose in life.

Eddie, for example, was a Loser because he was fat. Now many pounds thinner and a hunk, Eddie properly delivers the message to any sensitive teen or pre-teen: “In order to get the girls, lose weight.” Beverly’s problem is that she had an abusive father. Nothing much she can do to correct that. Seemingly destined for a romantic reunion with stuttering Bill, BFF from grade school, she gets sidetracked along the way in an almost pathetically uninteresting turn of character.

The scene is set early on for the film as we are forced to endure a full-frontal barf, a car crash, an abusive husband, the abandonment of a wedding ring and my spilled buttered popcorn—a very disturbing sequence—followed by a goofy clown with his red balloon and hideous laughter.

But the worst is yet to come as this movie clocks in at 2 hours and 49 minutes, an almost interminable amount of time that caused me to miss lunch as well as my popcorn. We are reminded that: “No one who dies in Derry ever really dies.” Well, they do, seemingly, but there are repeated rebirths that are as confusing as they are unlikely. Oh, and there are zombies scattered around, for those of you who need more subtle forms of terror.

All in all, a rather tedious afternoon at the cinema unless you like rivers of blood appearing for no real reason other than to remind you that this is supposed to be a horror film. “Nobody who dies in Derry ever really dies”… ‘tis a pity.

Hustlers (R)

Jennifer Lopez as Ramona heads a cast of women—men only have bit parts—in a story based on a New York Magazine article. This is the story of a group of pole dancers, strippers and female “entertainers” at one level or another, who tire of being taken for granted by the Wall Street creeps who lavish money on them for increasingly tawdry “dances” and other sex-oriented activities. They are not hookers, but hustlers, just like the men they entertain.

The story starts in 2007, before the disaster that strikes the US and the sex entertainment industry in 2008 with the recession. Destiny (Constance Wu) is just starting in the business and is being tutored by Ramona. They quickly become fast friends as well as colleagues and eventually business partners.

Later, Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) does an article focused on Destiny and Ramona; the two have split up by then for reasons that become clear as the film progresses. Of the many women in the cast, Lili Reinhart as Annabelle stands out. She has a tendency to lose her dinner at all times, even when under moderate stress, and she is a physical presence to be dealt with as well.

The script is sharp and sassy with its poignant moments. Ramona, facing an uncertain future and trying to get Destiny to join her in another venture, reminds her: “We can’t dance forever.”

The group eventually turns to a “double-header” approach to scamming men: One girl applies a poison that makes men careless with their credit cards, the second type of drink makes them happy they indulged in what they indulged in. The scam works fine until some of the girls misapply the drugs and trouble ensues, as it must.

The film is light-hearted on the surface but deadly serious about a lifestyle that was popular for a few years in the ‘80s but destined for failure when the engine driving it ground to a halt.

What of the men involved in buying the girls’ services? They suffer no more than occasional embarrassment—certainly no prison sentences equal to those given the women. There is a lot of skin exposed in the film, of course, but Lopez and Wu carry the film nobly and keep it from becoming overly exploitative. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself reacting emotionally to the plight of the women and the slothfulness of the men. Both feelings are deserved.