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Stephen King’s “It” set to scare you again

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By Shirrel Rhoades
Columnist

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Coulrophobia is the term for a fear of clowns. Lots of people have it. No wonder Ringling Bros. Circus is closing down.

Horrormeister Stephen King knew this about clowns when he wrote a scary novel titled “It” back in 1986. He told the story of an evil shape-shifting entity responsible for the disappearance of dozens of children in Derry, Maine. The monster often took the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown in order to lure its young prey.

The themes are familiar to Stephen King fans: “ The power of memory, childhood trauma and its recurrent echoes in adulthood, the ugliness lurking behind a façade of small-town quaintness, and overcoming evil through mutual trust and sacrifice.”

In 1990 “It” was adapted into a two-part TV miniseries, starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown.

Now we get the big-screen treatment with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. Directed by Argentinian filmmaker Andy Muschietti (“Mama”), “It” is planned to be the first installment in a duology.

In the new film, we follow a gaggle of kids known as the Losers’ Club, social outcasts taunted by the Bowers Gang. But fear of these high-school thugs takes a backseat when Bill Denbrough’s little brother Georgie disappears down a street drain, a victim of the predatory alien shapeshifter.

Bill (Jaeden Lieberher) is the stuttering leader of the Loser’s Club, all but invisible at home as his parents grieve for Georgie. His pals are familiar memes: Bill’s bespectacled best friend, Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier (Finn Wolfhard); overweight Ben Hanscom (Jeremy Ray Taylor); impoverished Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis ); germaphobic Stanley Uris (Wyatt Oleff); prerequisite black friend Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs); and sickly pal Eddie Kaspbrak (Jack Dylan Grazer).

They vow revenge on the ancient monster that awakens every 30 decades to feed. But the shapeshifter is not easy to kill. It has the ability to transform itself into its prey’s worst fears.

Muschietti explained why he picked Bill Skarsgård to play the killer clown. “You’ve had Heath Ledger doing almost a clown Joker, you’ve seen obviously Tim Curry as a clown. We wanted someone who created a Pennywise character that would stand on its own and Bill came in and created this character that frankly freaked us out.”

The director adds, “Pennywise shows up … and he does his show. He has an act. So it’s weird all the time, and every little thing implies a further threat … There’s something very off about him. Bill Skarsgård has that balance in him. He can be sweet and cute, but he can be pretty disturbing.”

In late 2016 several US cities experienced a rash of “clown sightings,” menacing figures in greasepaint or masks that tried to lure children into the woods or chased women down the street or lurked threateningly near schools. This phenomenon has been called everything from mass hysteria to a publicity stunt. Folklorist Benjamin Radford describes it as “the snowball effect,” where rumor spurs “the human penchant for a good story.” He says that clown sightings are more common during periods of social anxiety.

Whatever was behind this, don’t be surprised if the movie “It” causes another “Creepy Clown Epidemic.”

Honk! Honk!

Who’s there?

An evil clown coming to get you.

“Home Again” not

Rom-Com sequel

Reese Witherspoon and Candice Bergen once co-starred in a rom-com called “Sweet Home Alabama.” Now they both appear in a new rom-com called “Home Again” -- but it’s not a sequel.

The first was a down-home love story about a woman returning to Pigeon Creek, Alabama, to get a divorce from her husband after seven years apart, juggling him with her new fiancé. Very different, this latest love story is about a divorced mom who moves to Los Angeles where she must juggle three young men who move in with her, juggling them with her ex-husband who unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep.

Got it? It’s complicated.

“I connected to the role on many levels,” says Witherspoon of the new film. “I’ve been a single mom before and I’ve been divorced before. The idea that I could give women, who are at a crossroads in their life, hope was really what drew me to the project.”

But the interesting part is not about Reese Witherspoon’s cinematic love life. It’s about popular filmmaker Nancy Myers (“Something’s Gotta Give,” “The Intern”) handing the mantle to her daughter, first-time director, Hallie Meyers-Shyer .

Nancy Myers is noted for writing great parts in hit movies for adults. It’s also pointed out that all the lead characters in her movies have gorgeous kitchens.

Here, she produces her daughter’s film (with their names appearing together on the movie poster).

Over the years Hallie has trailed along after her mom, playing a flower girl in “Father of the Bride” (co-written by Myers), doing a cameo as a girl at a lunch counter in “What Women Want” (directed by Myers), serving as music consultant on another of her mom’s films, getting a special thanks on others. Hallie’s mom dedicated “The Parent Trap” to her.

Now she’s ready to fly on her own. Well, with a little help from mom.

“ Movies don’t look hard,” says Nancy Myers. “But figuring it out, getting the shape of it, getting everybody’s character right and having it be funny, make sense and be romantic, it’s creating a puzzle. Yes, having been a writer for so long, I have an awareness of when things are going awry, but it doesn’t mean I know how to fix them.”

Just like the title of one of Myers’s more celebrated movies, “It’s Complicated.”

Top 10 movies with

wardrobe mishaps

Fire the wardrobe mistress. She’s responsible for all those films that don’t accurately match costumes to the appropriate time period.

Here are ten of our favorite flubs:

10. “The Ten Commandments” (1956) -- In Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical epic we see Queen Nefertiri (Anne Baxter) wearing a sexy teal-colored dress. However, that color didn’t exist for textiles in 1446 BCE. Back then the only way to color a silk dress was to dye it in natural tints.

9. “Pompeii” (2014) -- During the Roman Empire the color purple was reserved for royalty, namely Emperor Nero. So Corvus ( Kiefer Sutherland’s character) would never dare wear a purple robe.

8. “The Last Samurai” (2003) -- Here the problem is the beautiful red Japanese armor worn by Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) in the battle scenes. This style of armor was a good 250 years too old for the film’s time period.

7. “Amadeus” (1984) -- Sharp eyes will notice Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) wearing a costume with a zipper. However, zippers weren’t invented until 1913.

6. “Gladiator” (2003) -- You get a glimpse of Maximus (Russell Crowe) wearing Lycra shorts under his toga. But this fabric didn’t exist back in Roman times.

5. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” -- The German officers display flashy medals on their uniforms, but Indy’s story takes place in 1938, at the start of World War II. And such medals weren’t given out until toward the end of the war; not at the beginning of it.

4. “Good Night and Good Luck” (2005) -- In this George Clooney film about newsman Edward R. Murrow, officers are shown wearing nametags. However, the story is set in the ‘50s and nametags weren’t worn by the military prior to 1967.

3. “Almost Famous” (2000) -- This story of a young reporter (Patrick Fugit) thrust into the ‘70s rock scene shows someone in a crowd scene wearing a Back Sabbath T-shirt. But the famous band didn’t authorize any T-shirts until 1997.

2. “The King’s Speech” (2010) -- George VI (Colin Firth) is shown wearing an Irish kilt, but the proper kilt would have been a Scottish Balmoral pattern.

1. “Pride & Prejudice” -- Elizabeth Bennet (Kiera Knightly) wears Wellington boots, but they didn’t exist back in 1813. These rubberized boots, popularized by the 1st Duke of Wellington, didn’t become available until 40 years later.

We’ve deliberately ignored such accoutremental anachronisms as digital watches in the Civil War (“Glory”) or telescopes in 1194 (“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”) or how Anne Boleyn wore her hair (“The Other Boleyn Girl”). Hollywood has enough trouble just getting dressed.

srhoades@aol.com

 

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