Darke Reviews – The Host (2013)

I’m of two minds on this film. It has plenty of elements that appealed to me and more than a few that drove me batshit crazy while watching it. Some basic facts first.

1. I have not read (nor do I intend to) the source material. Unlike Beautiful Creatures this didn’t drive me to need to read it.

2. I have not read Twilight (nor will I).

3. I have seen all of the Twilight films (by choice).

Writer/Director Andrew Niccol (Lord of War, Truman Show) has a love affair with Sci Fi concepts but something always goes wrong with the final production. The films would fall completely flat if not for a few saving graces here and there. Be it studio interference, trailers that are lousy, or perhaps his directing? I do not know. In his hands once again the film which could have so much potential never quite reaches it.

The failure however, I blame on the source material. I was hoping after the Twilight novels Stephanie Meyer had taken a correspondence course in writing. Sadly, my hope was dashed like a Tripod against the ruins of a plague ridden New York (that’s a non Host reference, but Sci Fi related). This woman is clearly and deeply in need of a Menage Trois. She apparently needs to have her female protagonist follow the same elements:

1. She’s ready for action when Male #1 isn’t.
2. Male #1 must put up token argument against.
3. There’s a male #2 who is ready and willing.
4. Female protagonist wants both.
5. She’s a Mary Sue.

That said the movie isn’t all bad. It is quite literally saved by the talents of young irish actress Saoirse Ronan (the Lovely Bones, Hanna) and actor Jake Abel (I Am Number Four, Percy Jackson) bring the most heart and soul to this film. Their relationship most of all and interactions between Ian, Melanie and Wanderer bring the most entertainment into what would otherwise be a rather plodding paint by numbers invasion of the body snatchers.

There are some highly irritating directorial, scripting or editing failures I cannot forgive. The movie showcases the most bizarre case of Stockholm syndrome I have ever seen. The film does not earn some of the beats in the final act. I find that a cardinal sin as there is much they could have done.

As we are dealing with both Melanie and Wanderer in Melanies head there is quite a bit of voice over work in the film. Many other reviews have ripped that element apart. I enjoyed it save for the volume and reverb put on it; however it doesn’t take it far enough. See the cardinal sin above. It also hosts (pun intended) the largest logic fail in the film – “We can’t tell them I’m alive in here….they won’t believe it.” – yet….everyone does??

So where does that leave us? (TL;DR crowd, this is what you want)

We have a middle to high concept movie that executes as well as the material that inspired it. All the flaws in dialogue and plot can be pointed there. The acting is what I expected, the cinematography is sufficient. The love story more bearable than the other film inspired by this novelists work. A single look from Ian (Jake Abel) in the final act shows more emotion than Kristen Stewart AND Robert Pattinson did in all the twilight films combined.

If you are a fanatic about the books – Give it a matinee or a pass
If you enjoyed the book – Give it a shot
If you are a teen or like paranatural teen romance – You should be good.

If you hate Twilight. – Wave off, wave off.
If you don’t like your love stories with the paranatural – Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full

If you didn’t want to see it before, don’t see it now. Otherwise, Matinee it up. It’s not as horrible as other reviewers make it out to be.

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Darke Reviews – Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

If you haven’t heard of it, I am not surprised. The studio didn’t market this one heavily and after watching it I am left with a burning question – Why the frak not? We could not escape the advertisements of the wanna be Die Hard movie and it was an apocalyptic piece of celluloid garbage next to this. AGDtDH (I refuse to type it out) director John Moore needs to talk to Olympus has Fallen director Antoine Fuqua on how to do a Die Hard movie, much less how to direct an action movie.

This film is what Die Hard 5 should have been. Antoine (Shooter, Training Day) delivers in his usual directorial sense an action movie with no holds barred and no F-Bombs left behind. This movie is a bloody, brutal love letter to the original Die Hard. I swear there’s even a handful of scenes where I think the script writers paused writing, watched the original Die Hard and went – “How can do we do a scene like that?”. John McTiernan (director of the original Die Hard) would be proud of the bromance between these two films if he was allowed back in the U.S. Notice all my references to Die Hard? You should – this movie truly is Die Hard in the White House.

Fuqua pulls together a list of actors you know that is really quite impressive – Gerard “300” Butler, Aaron “Two Face” Eckhart, Rick “Ninja Assassin” Yune, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Angela “should have been Storm” Bassett, Cole Hauser, Dylan McDermot, Ashley Judd, and Morgan -mother frakin- Freeman. The movie starts with a car accident on an icy bridge after letting you get to know a few of the characters and their relationships. We have President Asher (Eckhart) and the head of his Secret Service detail Mike Banning (Butler). A few months later after things went pear shaped, we have tensions with the 21st century boogeyman – the North Koreans, on the rise. Approximately 20 minutes of time is devoted to character introductions. After that, it’s time for the bang. There is a lot of Bang. And Boom. And “Ow!!!!” Butler is everything we should expect of our action stars these days. The quips are few. The fights are brutal and efficient. The fights actually make you believe this guy has been trained to, oh I don’t know kill every person in the room that isn’t supposed to be there.

For all my enjoyment the movie is not flawless. It required one specific leap that would not happen. Once the Secret Service goes into action to protect the President, the President no longer gets a say in what happens to those around him. Their job is him, no one else. There are a handful of other moments that had me ask Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but then I remembered I am watching a movie where the White House is getting attacked and taken over. I let some of the logic fails slide. One I cannot let slide is the subplot of the movie; where the moment the McGuffin is introduced I as the audience member understand the plan. Generals, Secret Service and other people ostensibly smarter than I am (character wise) do not see this “twist” coming. It angered me. With everything else executed so well, this Fail is kinda a let down.

for the TL;DR crowd –

If you are an action movie fan – see the first action movie worth a damn this year!!!
If you are a fan of any of the actors mentioned – See the damn thing!!
If you like the director – see the damn thing!

If you are not a fan of violent action – Give this a pass. I did mention the fight scenes are brutal. I am not joking. Knives are not to be messed with.

And for gods sake, if anyone who does read these reviews of mine knows anyone in Hollywood – point them to THIS movie on how to do an action movie or the next Die Hard the RIGHT WAY.

Olympus may have fallen, but thankfully the action movie has not.

Darke Reviews – Oz The Great and Powerful (2013)

No one can accuse director Sam Raimi of not having a visionary mind full of wonder and weirdness. To be perfectly honest I think Tim Burton could learn a thing or two from Raimi these days. The man who in 1981 brought us the original Evil Dead and showed us low budget horror at its finest and in 2002 brought the worlds most famous web slinger to screen and made more than a few of us believe in heroes again has taken us to Oz.

I am a fan of Wicked and the story of Galinda and Elphaba. I am a fan of the brilliance of Victor Fleming’s 1939 spectacle with Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton. I need to let you know now, this is neither of those stories. This is a new Oz.

This is an Oz with water faeries, witches, Winkies, China Dolls and let us not forget flying monkeys This is an Oz with impossible cloud formations and even more impossible geography. One where the day is warm, kind and clearly magical; and where the night is intimidating, menacing and you know you don’t want to see what goes bump in the night.

The opening of this movie in a 1905 Kansas made me smile. It could be because I was a carnie for a summer once and that in a century some things never change. It could be the nice call back to the original and a hint of things to come. One twist(er) later and we are in Oz. The CG landscape while bright and colorful was jarring in it’s rendering. I had trouble accepting the world at first but it grew on me as I realized what it was for – Wonder.

Oz is Wonderful. Not the man, he’s a bit of a schmuck. The land of Oz is truly wonderful. When I stopped caring about the CG and listened to the reeds play carnival music. When I saw the majesty of the Emerald City given form more than a painting it started. What truly sold me was the China Doll. I’ll be damned if the FX team didn’t do an amazing job. There were only a handful of times where I knew she was CG rather than Practical, but I truly lost myself in a world with a China Doll who could walk, cry and may be one of the most memorable and endearing characters in the movie.

That isn’t to say that James Franco as Oz isn’t good, he turns in a performance we know he is more than capable of as a man who doesn’t know what he is capable of. Rachel Weisz is ravishing as Evanora the Guardian of the Emerald City and gives us what we expect, but surprisingly she is upstaged by Mila Kunis. Mila’s turn as Theodora, sister to Evanora, was for me nothing but heart breaking as she devours scenery like pop corn. Some have said Michelle Williams as Glinda is a bit flat but that is only in her delivery and dialogue. Let’s be honest Glinda isn’t exactly the most dimensional person in the world no matter what version you like. I do disagree that she’s flat though. Her performance isnt to be found in the dialogue. It’s Michelle’s body language and expressions. This is a woman who knows her face, her shoulders and blocking and can use it.

Was the CG heavy handed at times and took me out of the world? Sure.

How about the 3D? This one uses it in interesting ways a few times, some tricks I haven’t seen done. A lot of it is the classic “thing coming at your face” but there are some nice depth of field effects. I don’t think you will miss much if you can’t stand 3D. If you could go either way, see it in 3D and let me know what you think?

Can I take Kids to it? – Yes. Yes. Yes. This movie is for them more than Jack the Giant slayer ever could have hoped to be.

Will I get something out of it as an adult? No promises, but I know I did. The movie made me smile, it made me laugh, it let me look at the world and remember what movies are here for. To let our minds wander and wonder. Let that inner child that watched the Wizard of Oz and saw someone travel by Bubble or Broomstick and go “that would be cool”.

So there it is, I recommend this one for kids of all ages; inside and out.

I plan to catch this one again, sans 3D with friends later. Making this one of the few movies I will see more than once in the theatre. Between this and Beautiful Creatures earlier this year ((see it damnit)) – I think some directors have realized we don’t always need darkness. Sometimes we do need a Wonderful Wizard.

Darke Reviews – Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

In the past few years there have been many movies where the trailer for the movie made it far far better than it is (I am looking at you Clash of the Titans). There are others where the trailer fails to deliver a pitch for movie that generates a positive reaction. Jack the Giant Slayer is the latter of the two types.

The trailer for the movie had me doubting Bryan Singers sanity. He wanted to do this? This was his passion project. The man who brought me one of the greatest crime movies in twenty years (Usual Suspects), the man who brought us Professor Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine to screen? This was what he wanted?

Thank whatever deity there is that listens to me that I don’t necessarily trust trailers anymore. (I am still glaring at you Clash of the Titans).

Now, there are things to take into account if you want me to get into the movie. I am by no means its target audience. I am a 36 *cough* 25 year old female. This movie is targeted to boys between the ages of 8 and 15. It has humor in it that adults can enjoy, so you can make it a family affair if you like the work of Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor.

The director brings us the classic tale of Jack, the sweet, but spacey farm boy with dreams of something bigger. Nicholas Hoult, recently of Warm Bodies and XMen First Class, is as charming as ever. He brings a much needed earnestness to the role. We have our forgettable princess in peril and Jack determined to save her from unexpected Beanstalk growth that takes us to the land of Giants. There and Back Again…oh wait, wrong review.

This is one of the points where the trailers failed, or perhaps TV does, as the giants looked MUCH better in the theatre than they did on screen. The plot is actually deeper than I gave it credit for. I forgive some of the physics and engineering fails that occur within the film as we are dealing with a movie that has Giants, Beanstalks miles upon miles high, and a land above the clouds.

So by now you are asking “Well should I see it?”

– If you have possession of an aforementioned male childling – Yes, though careful if you are worried about their sensibilities at a young age. There are some implied scenes that some parents won’t like.

If you are an aforementioned male childling, in spirit, mind or body (or all three) – Yes.

If you enjoy watching Ewan McGregor ham it up with his best Eddie Izzard impression (intentional or not, I couldn’t quite tell) – Then yes.

If you are a completist for all things Bryan singer – Yes

Otherwise, you can give this one a pass until it’s on Netflix. You aren’t missing a lot that can’t wait.