Darke Reviews | Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

You would be hard pressed to think of a franchise, any franchise, that by its sixth outing is actually remaining as entertaining and providing the same quality as its previous films. Its arguably getting better the longer it goes on.

This film takes Dom and Brian taking on another crew of equally skilled drivers who are far more ruthless and with less morality. The goal? Doesn’t really matter. There is a McGuffin, there always is. The real goal here is the return of Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz.

You want to know how they did it after the fourth movie? You know me – spoiler free. You will need to see the movie; though I will say I did not roll my eyes at the reveal or reasons. I lay that squarely on the hands of script writer Chris Morgan, who has been writing for the Fast series since Tokyo Drift. He has successfully interwoven all six movies and gives the appropriate callbacks, ties and links the stories in a manner that lesser writers would have been heavy handed with. Instead we get one line deliveries and a minimal amount of exposition, the barest of what’s needed.

Director Justin Lin, also with the franchise since Tokyo Drift has a feel for the stories and characters that make the movie series successful as it is. He knows how to shoot the action just as much as the quiet moments, with limited exceptions. He brings the best out of his cast and their natural chemistry and charisma.

You hear me mention charisma in some of my reviews and in my humble opinion it makes and breaks a “group” movie. This team has charisma, it shines like baby oil off of every single actor and their interactions with each other. Five of six movies together has made this cast the family they claim to be. Am I saying they are great actors? No. What I am saying is they play well off of each other and have a natural comfort and charm that carries through the screen effortlessly.

Despite all this excellence, the director needs to move on. Four movies and he’s starting to lose some of the cinematic vision that made the others so watchable. A Bay-esque rotating cam during a romantic moment was nearly nauseating at times. combined with a series of quick cuts you were wrenched from a moment that was reminiscent of Mel Gibson and Rene Russo’s seduction scene from Lethal Weapon 3. Sadly, and I don’t know if this is the director, the Director of photography or cinematographers fault, but the shaky cam has made its way into the film. Its not as bad as it could have been (I am looking at you Paul “Bourne” Greengrass) but it’s a noticeable and unfortunate change.

Why so bad? So…imagine the awesomeness that is Michelle Rodriguez vs Gina Carrano? This should be the meanest, brutalist street fight we’ve seen in the films. It almost was, for what you could make out from it. Other sequences fell victim to this as they did to the quick cut and angles. This is the one flaw of the film. Ok there is also the minimum of 20 mile long runway….but…its an action sequence in a Fast film. I’ll forgive it.

TL;DR ?

If you like the franchise, see it.
If you are curious about any element – see it

Ah hell just see the thing. It is a fast and the furious movie so you get out of it only what you should expect. It’s not high cinema, but its 2 hours of raw entertainment and characters we’ve been watching for 12 years now ((seriously..12 ))

I think that youll feel successfully transported into the film.

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Darke Reviews | Epic (2013)

William “Rise of the Guardians” Joyce brings us another tale for the kids. Instead of fanciful dreams and Guardians of the children of the world; we are given the miniscule yet potent Guardians of the Woods. While last falls Rise of the Guardians (RozG) was brought to us by Dreamworks and delivered all its trailers promised, this particular fairy tale is delivered to us by Fox and does not deliver all that was promised.

Wait, wait wait. Am I telling you this is a bad movie? No. Not in the least. Point in fact its rather good and will be highly entertaining to its core demographic of 5 to 12 year olds. Adults may get something from the animation and action as well. There is a solid story and it doesn’t once get Ferngully/Avatar levels of preachy on you. It doesn’t get that way at all point in fact. Which is a point I have to appreciate.

SO what doesn’t deliver? The trailer.

Let me give you the original teaser from June 2012

Now as of November of this year, they were still mostly pitching this as an kids actioner befitting the title it has. There were a few more comedy moments inserted and overall you got a better feel for the film that would be coming. In recent weeks Fox, in their usual mis/manhandling of their properties have all but ruined their chances of making back the budget on this one.

We have had trailers over emphasizing the comedic beats of the film that are completely out of context. I mean literally. They changed the music in the trailers from the music of the scene and it alters the tonality as much as it could be. There is also the fact of who they are choosing to play up in the cast. Comic actors (Ansari, O’Dowd) and singers (Beyonce, Steven Tyler) more than any known elements (Hutcherson, Farrell, Seyfriend, Waltz). Name dropping on this scale and style usually means the studio has no faith in the picture or the trailers to draw people in and instead have to use this particular tactic to try to entice parents and their kids to see their favourite funny people and singers – though really does anyone in their target demo know who Steven Tyler is?

That’s the promise failed folks. Once again I find the trailer house and studio grossly negligent in their marketing. Kids will go see this expecting this shiny happy comedic movie with talking animals. They will be disappointed. Kids will go expecting their big stars through the movie, they will be half disappointed.

Granted I know I am not the target demographic and I can’t honestly say what kids may take from the trailer sand expect in the movie, but if I am right you will get back what you put in. The studio idiots at Fox and whomever they contracted for the trailer half assed it and they will get half as much as they could have unless positive word of mouth saves this work.

That being said and my rant done – If you have kids take them to see it. 6 is the youngest I’d take, but 5 might be safe. There’s nothing particularly too dark or scary in it at all. Rather well done that way for kids.

If you are an adult and were curious – Try it out.

I enjoyed it and honestly part of me hopes there are Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs out there.

Darke Reviews | Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Reviewers Log, Stardate – 54868.6.

These are the continuing voyages of director JJ Abrams at the helm of the NCC 1701, the Enterprise. His four year mission to once again appear the fanboys and girls of the Roddenberry universe in the same way he deftly handled the 2009 relaunch of the Star Trek franchise. His crew, Chris Pine, Zacahary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Peg, John Cho and Anton Yelchin suit up to reprise their roles and give us the Prime directive of any actor – make us believe in them as their character.

Do they succeed? Is JJ once again able to warp us into his vision of the Star Trek universe and its alternate timeline?

Yes. Yes they do. – so in short- Just See it!

In what for me is a nearly flawless film, which is hard with just over two hours of running time, we are taken through the highs and lows of James T Kirk’s first captaincy. It’s unclear how long after the events of the first film this is, but it’s also largely irrelevant to the current plot as well.

What is the plot? In my usual non spoiler fashion we have a bit of a challenge here since the trailers did a fantastic job of hiding things for a change. Starfleet is attacked from within by a man of their own making. A nightmare for them given meat and willing to break bone to get what he wants. We then have a somewhat humbled Kirk driven to vengeance for this mans acts. In the course of the film he learns what it means to be a captain, to know fear, to know about the value of the lives of his crew, and truly what it means to be a Starfleet officer.

He isn’t the only one to learn things – Spock also learns what it means to be a (hu)man, a friend and a partner all while holding true to being the right hand that Kirk needs. The voice of wisdom that his commanding officer won’t necessarily listen to but will hear. His relationship with Kirk and the crew is pushed to the limits, just as much as his own repressed emotions are.

With a rare talent among directors JJ Abrams allows each of the crew their own heroic savior moment. While some characters don’t get as much screen time or epicness as others, and that is a shame, those that do earn their moments well. That is what this film does well by the way; it continues the character development of the first film and brings it to a head and cements it all. The command crew of the Enterprise are now and forever a family. All moments from here on are earned. Every tear, scream of rage, heart break and panic can be believed.

Even Alice Eve, as Carol Wallace-Marcus, new comer to the crew earns her stripes and becomes part of the family with one scene as a glaring flaw. Benedict Cumberbach brings all the weight and gravitas of his acting prowess as the films heavy. Even Peter Weller , welll not even , delivers in his characteristic way. Bruce Greenwood, reprises his role as Pike and shows all the charm and dignity he did in the first film. All of the acting is right where it needs to be.

So why isn’t this a perfect film? There are a few small flaws, some pacing issues and even some editing/timing issues. They are minor. My biggest complaint is a completely and totally unnecessary cheesecake shot with Carol. It was shown in at least one of the trailers and for that moment she was posed like a bloody store mannequin. My partner in crime with movies will be giving her well reasoned rant soon on this and it is well earned. Count on me to share it.

Aside from that one scene, damn near flawless.

TL;DR crowd – here’s what you are waiting on.

Just go see the thing. Everyone. Period. No exceptions. No alternatives.

This right now is THE movie to beat this summer until Pacific Rim in July. Nothing else will come close to this quality in every respect. Sure other movies will be entertaining (Fast 6, Now You See Me, etc) but few if any will deliver on so many levels so successfully.

So to you JJ Abrams, please continue to take us in this timeline where no one has gone before. I can’t wait to see what you do with the new Star Wars.

Darke Reviews | The Great Gatsby (2013)

Like many of us in the American school system I had this story thrust upon me much like a tick in the woods thrusts itself upon its unsuspecting naive victim. I made it two chapters into this dense piece of work by F Scott Fitzgerald before gleefully accepting the C by still being able to answer questions about it by pure BS.

Now…we have Baz Luhrmann’s (Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge)newest project the adaptation of  one of the quintessential American classic novels. The trailers promised me music, the roaring 20s in all their gleeful insanity and a sense of wild hope not seen since then and perhaps not again. It is also a broken promise.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the titular character with a near manic level of calm, suave and even desperation  that reminds me yet again – he is a terrific actor that is often crucified by people for no real reason. Tobey Maguire is nearly tolerable as our voice and lens for the film Nick Carraway. Joel Edgerton who seems to be the twin of Sam Worthington but with the ability to act, nails the 20s “Man” to a T. The women are largely forgettable and barely tolerable, though that may be what was written more than the failure of the actresses involved.

The film does execute some things beautifully. The make up, the wardrobe the sets are all magnificent representations of the 1921. That is where my compliments must end. The actors were good and those that made the actors their characters were good.

On to the flaws?

If JJ Abrams loves the lens flare, then Baz loves the soft filter. Everything in the movie appears just slightly out of focus on the edges unless you are in a close up. Things are lit too brightly, too off and just a bit too loud that it almost takes away from the beauty of the sets.

Musically the movie is a truly broken promise. I didn’t expect Moulin Rogue with the re imagining of classic songs merged anachronistically into the wild parties of the West Egg. Well…actually I did to a point, however what I got was a few bars here and there of barely audible musical tones that were familiar. It felt to me as if they took anything that wasn’t pure score and rendered it little more than background set dressing that was not memorable and highly forgettable. It is a magnificent sound track that is treated as an after thought. It bothers

Pacing and plot? It runs a full two hours and thirty some odd minutes and feels it. Thats not good. When my friend and I spent the entire credits dissecting the film and that was more enjoyable than the past hour of celluloid, really not a good thing.

Plot wise? Well you know the story and if not, I wont tell you. My reviews are spoiler free. The entire film seems to be a facade trying to cover a broken premise and failed execution. Which if that was intentional I am both confused and impressed as internally the movie demonstrates the Facade of the rich of that time.

Where does that leave my TL;DR crowd?

Baz completists. go see it. 3D once again not necessary, but could be interesting
Fan of the actors? Sure go see it. They all perform admirably.

Anyone else? Give it a pass. You won’t get the music or a happy ending. Find the music in Itunes, youtube, grooveshark, spotify, whatever your pleasure sir.

I do not recommend calling this movie up. Save your money for Star Trek Into Darkness next week.

Darke Reviews | Iron Man 3 (2013)

Damnit. I Really wanted to write this review as this – “Why are you reading this? Go see it. Nuff said.”

In what passes for good conscience for me, I can’t give you just that. Writer/Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Long Kiss Goodnight, Lethal Weapon(s)) delivers a hot mess.The movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it an Iron Man sequel? An Avengers sequel? A study in PTSD? A What it means to be the man in the suit? A conspiracy theory?

Instead of picking one or two of the above it goes for all of the above. It truly has become a jack of all trades – versed in many and master of none. Sounds bad right?

Not entirely. The movie has some moments that save it. Nearly all of them were shown in the trailer, but the full sequences are entirely worth it on screen. There are a few moments that make me sad and a few that made me laugh. Most of the time I was just watching RDJ be RDJ as Stark yet oddly hamstrung by what I am convinced is Marvel interference to set up Marvel Phase 2. Again its not Bad! Just confused. Perhaps bloated? Some effects are overused…and over used. Unnecessary characters added and not enough done with the characters they have – with the exception of Pepper. She’s kinda cool.

I am trying not to dis the movie too much as it has quite a few moments that work and are fun to watch. It has the best Terminator I’ve seen since 1991 and T2. This movies Terminatrix has more threat and menace than the last two terminators combined. The “there’s my boys scene” was nearly worth every penny of admission. The attack on the Malibu house was also well done and held some of the most drama and emotional moments of the rest of the movie.

Then there’s the Mandarin. I can see why people are angry over it. No spoilers per usual, but I get it. I see why they did it as a production company, but it was dumb guys. Do it right or don’t do it. Pick one. There’s also the end. GAHHHHHHHH. NO NO NO.
OK….

So where does that leave us for the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read).

Iron Man or Marvel Completest – See it. Matinee or Prime…your choice.
—You DON’T need 3D.

Comic Book junky? – Matinee
— I think this will torque you off more than anything.

If you were unsure – DVD/Redbox will be fine.
—There’s something to the big screen on this and the sound system but pacing issues may bore you.

At the end I want to hate it but can’t. 2.5 other Iron Man movies built up a lot of good will that I cannot ignore. RDJ, Gwenyth and Don Cheadle save it with their natural charisma and charm. I am just frustrated to see a movie and story with so much potential that never leads up to it. It is clearly a Hot mess – I just don’t know who to blame for it. Script, Director or Producers. Possibly all three.

As always I welcome the thoughts and reviews of others.