The Limehouse Golem
Bill Nighy plays Inspector Kildare, commissioned by Scotland Yard to find the notorious Golem Killer, a Jack the Ripper-type serial killer. Based on a 1994 novel that incorporated actual historical figures like Karl Marx, Juan Carlos Medina’s movie is good-looking, and Nighy is a fun sort of cranky Sherlock Holmes. Problem is, the mystery itself isn’t that absorbing, and a side plot involving the murder trial of a local actress (Olivia Cooke) fails to engage. Granted, it is pretty cool that Medina somehow manages to stage a hypothetical scene where Karl Marx commits a very bloody murder. There are a few macabre moments, like that one, that work well. Not enough to make this anything really worth watching. Cooke labors hard in the role of Lizzie Cree, a stage actress in a bad marriage who becomes an object of sympathy for Kildare as he goes through his list of suspects which include a local actor/playwright, a doctor and, yes, Karl Marx. The movie is weird, but it’s not weird enough, and Nighy’s decent performance is ultimately wasted. (Available for rent and download on iTunes and Amazon.com during a limited theatrical release.)
4 ItThe benefit of a movie like Andy Muschietti’s It is that the director and his writers can keep some core themes that worked in the novel but switch things up a bit and streamline the narrative to make the story work a bit better 30 years after it was written. In that respect, the new It is a triumph. While the 1990 TV miniseries dealt with both the young and older versions of The Loser’s Club, the posse of kids that stand up to evil, the new It stands as Part One, completely dividing the kid and adult stories. There’s also a major time change, with the kids’ story taking place in the late ’80s instead of the ’50s. Thank you, Stranger Things. The core story remains the same: Children in Derry, Maine, have been disappearing for many years, and the film starts with the sad case of Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott), a little boy in a yellow rain slicker who follows his paper boat to the sewer drain and makes an unfortunate acquaintance. That acquaintance is Pennywise, the sewer-dwelling clown, played as a savage beast by Bill Skarsgard. The big difference between Tim Curry’s Pennywise from the TV miniseries and the new incarnation is that Curry’s Pennywise was almost a normal circus clown until he sprouted monster teeth and took you out. He was into trickery. Skarsgard’s Pennywise is a shit-assed, makeup-cracking, straight-up scary demon clown with an ability to charm for a short while, but he just kind of sucks royally from the get-go, oozing with evil. If you saw him at a circus, you’d be seriously afraid for the trapeze artists and lions. The kids are great. The standout is Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh. At one point, one of the Losers calls her Molly Ringwald. Lillis has that kind of leading-lady-in-a-teen-film commanding screen presence. It: Part Two, with the adults, while not official yet, is a certainty. As for It: Part One, it draws the best elements of King’s inconsistent novel effort and comes out a frightening winner.