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Posts Tagged ‘Bill Skarsgard’

Bill Skarsgard (left)

“THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME” My rating: B- (Now on Netflix)

138 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Some people are born just so they can be buried.”

That glum observation, spoken by a corrupt lawman, pretty much sums up “The Devil All the Time,” a slow-bubbling stew of old-time religion and blue-collar mayhem.

Imagine a partnership of Flannery O’Conner and Jim Thompson. It’s pretty unpleasant…but has been acted and produced with enough brio to keep us hanging on.

Directed by Antonio Campos (“Christine,” TV’s “The Sinner”) and scripted by Campos and his brother Paulo (from the novel by Donald Ray Pollock), this is a  saga covering 20 years and three generations of a family (two families, actually) living in southern Ohio and nearby West Virginia.

Tom Holland

It’s a world populated by devotees of Ol’ Time Religion, feral and/or delusional preachers, dirty cops and a couple of serial killers who prey on hitchhikers.

The whole thing is narrated by novelist Pollock, who has just the right down-home voice (half sincerity, half deadpan sarcasm,  hint of a twang) to pull it all together.

The story?  Where to begin…”The Devil All the Time” is all over the place.

It starts in 1945 with the return from combat of Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgard), still haunted by what he experienced and rebelling at God. It then follows Willard’s son Arvin (Tom Holland) through a traumatic childhood.

For both father and son religion is more a burden than a comfort, in large part because of the hypocrisies so lavishly displayed by clergymen like the bombastic Roy Laferty (Harry Melling in  spectacularly hypnotic/creepy form) or the snakily seductive Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson), who preys on the naive young things of his congregation.

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Maika Monroe, Bill Skarsgard

“VILLAINS” My rating: B-  

88 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The ironically titled “Villains” makes audiences  root for a pair of truly stupid criminal lovers by providing antagonists who are infinitely worse.

In Dan Berk and Robert Olsen’s black comedy, Mickey (Bill Skarsgard) and Jules (Maika Monroe) are the stars of their own sweetly demented version of “Gun Crazy.”  They are to real criminals what white suburban teens are to genuine gang bangers — they talk tough and are sexually turned on by  criminal behavior, but they’re so thick they don’t think to fill the tank of their getaway vehicle before robbing a convenience store.

Running out of gas just miles from their latest heist, the pair ditch the car and take refuge in blandly posh manse in the woods.  Nobody’s home, so they figure they can hang out there for a while.

That’s until they find a mute 10-year-old girl chained in the basement and are interrupted by the arrival of homeowners George and Gloria (Jeffrey Donovan, Kyra Sedgwick), who are also serial kidnappers/killers.

Gloria is a Southern belle so off the charts that she believes  a porcelain-headed doll is her actual child (she makes Blanche Dubois look like the poster girl for emotional stability).  Hubby George is a golden-voiced charmer, a Dixie gentleman who can explain away even the most hair-raising ugliness with a barrage of reassuring   bromides. (Am I the only one who suspects Donovan is doing a vocal imitation of Kevin Spacey in his “House of Cards” role?) (more…)

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“IT” My rating: B-

135 minutes | MPAA rating: R

First, let’s all take a slow, non-hyperbolic breath.

Rarely has a mere horror movie gotten the advance raves and widespread cultural attention being lavished on “It,” the new film based on Stephen King’s novel (it was filmed once before, for a 1990 TV miniseries).

Well, it’s a good movie. Not great. It’s way overlong and trips over a few narrative dead ends.

It’s not as interesting or satisfying as either “It Follows” or “Get Out,” two recent groundbreaking examples of the horror genre.

But “It” — written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Doberman and directed by Andy Muschietti (“Mama”) — does hit the sweep spot between jump-in-your-seat thrills and the sort of Spielberg-influenced 1980s adolescent adventure most recently championed by Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things.”

Basically you’ve got a group of pre-pubescents taking on a supernatural evil that resurrects every three decades or so to snatch unwary children. This creature is a sinister circus clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) who lives in a small town’s sewers and marks his approach with red balloons.

There’s no explanation of Pennywise’s back story; the screenplay presents him as the pure embodiment of every child’s deepest fears (making him a clown was a brilliant stroke on King’s part) and pretty much leaves it at that.

Dramatically, “It” is a deft balancing act between growing creepiness, an often hilarious examination of youthful behavior, and a compassionate (but superficial) look at adolescent angst.

The leader of these young misfits is Bill (Jaden Lieberher, so terrific in “St. Vincent” and “Midnight Special”), whose little brother vanished a year earlier when he ventured too close to a street grating during a rainstorm. Motivated by sibling love, the stuttering Bill is determined to face his own fears to stop Pennywise’s quiet rampage. (more…)

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