Darke Reviews | The Wolverine (2013)

First, I need to say this is better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Second, I have to say that comparison is like saying a tonsillectomy is less invasive than a heart and lung transplant. The Wolverine does largely wash away the horrible memories of the first outing and its leaked work print. I think that Fox has learned from last time and stopped interfering as much (IE – redecorating a set over a weekend without telling the director) and hired a competent director (someone not named Gavin Hood).

This time our director is James Mangold, who in his previous outings such as Identity, Walk the Line and the fantastic remake of 3:10 to Yuma, shows us he understands how to tell a movie about characters and sell it. He grasps the concept of drama and melodrama and even how to have fun in a movie, like he shows in Knight and Day. While not necessarily a visionary director, he is an experienced one that still isn’t a “safe” choice. That said, his direction isn’t perfect and the movie suffers slightly in the pacing and editorial departments with a running time just over 2 hours that you do feel.

The writing is solid through the film, though it does bear the three writers issue. Many elements are telegraphed and the romance, while somewhat accurate to the comics for a change, feels far more forced than it should. Between an uncomfortable romance and something I can almost say looks like a love triangle between the living it feels awkward at times. I am not sure who should be into who. Then there is the actual love triangle between a man, a woman and a nightmare. No, I am not kidding. Yes, I am embellishing, but only a bit. The nightmare sequences while interesting at first become overwrought and unwanted the longer the film goes and you are hoping for resolution of them much sooner than we get. While the dialogue is solid, the plot comes across clunky and forced more often than it should.

What of our actors? Well, I am glad you asked. Hugh Jackman is back in shape and the movie loves to show that off. I am glad the movie loved to show it off. Oh he played Wolverine well again, but with I think his 6th performance and a 7th on the way, I think he has this role down. I am a little bothered by his lack of knowing Japanese, which is an aspect to Logan I enjoyed in the comics, but this Wolverines timeline is different so I move on. He does play the tortured soul and Ronin without going totally Nolan with it and it makes me happy. I don’t need my superheroes to be completely mopey and depressed all the time, I really would prefer them to be superhuman, not human.

The movie also introduces us to several new talents to the American scene with Tao Okamoto as Mariko who has, according to IMDB, never acted before. It doesn’t show much and she performs better than the entire cast of X-Men Origins- Wolverine. Another new comer to film Rila Fukushima, playing the candy apple red haired Yukio. Her character definitely helps to drive the plot forward and is generally interesting to watch on screen. Her performance, though at times feeling awkward, does add more life to the film than X-men 3 had in its entirety.

FX? Well, they are hit and miss. Some look far better than others. The sets are
gorgeous and minus the train sequence authentic looking. The camera work is nearly solid, there’s at least one fight sequence where I believed the camera man was in the middle of a grand mal seizure and the director wanted the shot so bad he didn’t call cut. Beyond that, not much on the shaky cam. The healing/blade effects are hundreds of times better than the last film and the cuts, with one or two exceptions are not painful to watch.

So where does that leave us? TL;DR!

Overall the movie is solid, not the best thing this summer, not the worst this summer. It is at the moment the best of the comic book movies to come out so far since May, but Kick Ass 2 is coming so it may lose the crown quick. It’s slightly better than a meh, but I can’t bring myself to say it’s great. It is…”Good enough.”

Matinee it if you weren’t sure but are curious.
If you were a fan and dying to see it, full price and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Fox has apparently also taken the Marvel route and decided to use this movie to launch the next film through the end credits sequence. I promise spoiler free as always, but the two cameos in the credits are a joy to behold.

Darke Reviews | Red 2 (2013)

Judging by the fact that the original movie RED released in 2010 only made 21 million in it’s opening weekend with a total of 90 million earned domestic most of you never saw it. That is a shame. RED is actually an original film that brings together a number of actors that many people love and tells a story we haven’t quite seen before. It has a chemistry all it’s own and embraces the quirkiness that it contains like a lover. I do highly recommend the original film for everyone and generally speaking it’s family friendly.

Now that brings us to two years later and RED 2. New director, same cast and then some and the same writers (only 2!). The movie made me laugh hard more than a few times, the acting overall was solid, the action was as intense and over the top as the original. So what’s the problem?

Lightning in a bottle.

With the first RED the writers, who also delivered us Battleship; the only movie to possibly come to close to bringing Catwoman down as the worst film ever, may have had their one moment of pure genius or luck. It had near perfect pacing, beautiful dialogue and actual character moments that let you have a moment to breathe between action beats. That’s actually where RED 2 falls flat, which isn’t quite a fail but more of that hard stumble after too many shots of vodka and you start to wonder where you are and why the stars are overhead.

The chemistry seems to have also dwindled between films between the three principles played by Bruce Willis, Malkovich and Mary Louise-Parker. I consider it a flaw that Malkovichs Marvin has a better understanding, relationship and on screen chemistry with MLP’s Sarah than her on screen beau Frank (Willis). The returning characters played by Brian Cox and Helen Mirren all but rescue the movie along with the addition of Byung Hung Lee. Sir Anthony Hopkins turns in one of his more colorful performances of late as the largely insane Bailey (that’s not a spoiler it’s in the trailer). Catherine Zeta Jones on the other hand largley has no point and the movie would have performed better without her.

The lack of chemistry and overall whirlwind plot timing issues surprise me since this is the same Director (Dean Parisot) who gave us the epically funny Galaxy Quest in ’99. Again perhaps lightning in a bottle?

Of course there is one problem that maybe deserves a rant all it’s own. Bruce Willis. He needs to retire. Not his character Frank Moses, I mean Willis himself. Of his last 13 films only one of which has him showing a semblance of something like charm. He’s flat as a pancake hit by optimus prime. It’s the same bald, dry, beady eyed, raspy voice performance that he has given in everything he’s done after Over the Hedge back in 2006. Every single performance I have seen from him since then is completely interchangeable and downright dull. It actually brings down the performances of those around him. I ask this as a personal plea to Bruce Willis and his agent – Retire. Retire while people can still remember John McClane the hero of Nakatomi, while they can still remember Jimmy the Tulip Tudeski, Korben Dallas and Harry Stamper. Retire before you go into production of Die Hardest (I AM NOT JOKING PEOPLE, It’s coming!). Please take the Sean Connery route and look at your recent films and retire while you are still loved by many.

So forgive my little rant and I shall now give you the TL;DR you’ve been waiting for.

Despite everything above, I still enjoyed the film and do recommend it if you have seen the first. It’s matinee only.

If you haven’t seen the first, go. hunt. Find it and watch it. You can probably skip this one unless you get curious and then of course I want you to come back here and tell me your opinion on it.

Overall folks, it was 2 hours that was far better spent this weekend than it was on RIPD, but that of course is like saying having your hand slammed in a door is better than your head slammed in a door (something I wish happened after RIPD).

It is entertaining even though it has some serious flaws. Helen Mirren, Malkovich, Cox, Lee make the film. So Grasshopper, decide now do you see it or not.

My choice – I’d still see it, but only matinee.

Darke Reviews | R.I.P.D. (2013)

Rest In Peace Department. Oh where do I begin? Do I start with the camera work that nearly made me nauseous? No, I don’t think so. How about the characters? Detestable but no. Writing? Meh. How about the Visual Effects? They were cutting edge right? ..Hmmm alright, lets start with direction then.

Robert Schwentke. Who? 8 titles to his credit, one of which is the cult favorite and generally successful film: RED (the one with Bruce Willis). He wasn’t brought back to direct the sequel that also comes out this weekend. In that movie, there is a sense of comedic timing, charisma and chemistry between the actors, well paced action and an understanding of how to do over the top. I believe there is very real chance he has been secretly lobotomized between films. None of the direction from RED survived into this film. None of it.

Ok so writing? Three of them. Yep, the magic number for fail so far this summer. Two of them work together regularly and have given us such written gems as Aeon Flux, The Tuxedo and Clash of the Titans. The third gave us such humorously memorable films like The Wedding Crashers, The Change Up and Fred Claus. Remember how people flocked to those and praised the genius comedy? But Jess you say – “It’s based on a comic book.” That may be true, well it is true. I’ve done a quick glance at the source material and it doesn’t look all bad and at the end of the day had me more interested in three pages than this movie did in an hour and fifty one minutes. The writers clearly had no clue and were painfully disdainful to the material (that I’ve seen anyway).

Right visuals then! They can save this movie. Good FX and solid visuals can cover a movies flaws from time to time. The Special effects in this were excellent back in 1997 when Men in Black did it better in every respect. Sixteen years later, they don’t hold up and quite frankly look like they went to the same FX house that SyFy channel used for Sharknado. There was only one effect in the movie that looked clean and you’ve already seen it in the trailer where Ryan Reynolds walks through a still frame of his death. One effect. That’s it.

Acting! Acting can …No I can’t even write that with a straight face. Ryan Reynolds is the only thing that saves this from being as repugnant as a Garbage Pail Kid left to rot in sewer waste in the Arizona sun. He has such natural charisma and charm it almost overshadows the horrifically obnoxious, loathsome and detestable persona played by Bridges. The ridiculous accent and talking don’t stop. Ever. Seriously he never shuts up. He has no redeeming qualities and is one mustache twirl away from just being a bully. Does the villain help? Nope. It’s telegraphed the first moment they walk on screen.

So TL;DR –

When asked if I would watch this or World War Z again, it took me half a second to say WWZ. That first half was choking down the bile of thinking of the festering boil of the summer slate that is RIPD.

For those unsure of the short form of my opinion on this repugnant piece of film.

Do not see it. You will never get that two hour block of time back in your life. There are so many other films in the theatre now that deserve your time and money. If…If however you want to see this – see Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. This is another film based on a comic, couched in the supernatural that gets everything right that this film got wrong.

Now I am going to go bleach my brain before watching RED 2 this weekend. I want to go in without the hate.

Darke Reviews | Pacific Rim (2013)

Hold on to your butts and fasten your seat belts. Pacific Rim has arrived. All summer I have been saying this movie or that movie will be the one to beat until PR shows up. I was absolutely right. At the edge of our hope for a truly great summer blockbuster we Are given this gift. This weekend we are cancelling the slate of mediocre and rehashed summer films. While there have been fun movies and good movies this is a great movie that puts them all to shame.

Guillermo Del Toro (Geek god, Hellboy, Blade II) directs a story written by Travis Beacham who only has the lack luster clash of the Titans to his credits. Please note this movie meets the rules – One Writer, One Screenplay by. Together the two have given us a story of men, monsters and giant flipping robots. They do it well and they did it epic. They spared no expense and it shows.

So what actually makes it epic? Well you have Idris Elba playing a soldier and a leader who will be the last man standing so his people don’t lose hope. He is the stereotype and plays it as if he isn’t. Scenery is his diet and he chews with raw abandon. When he yells you want to apologize to him, when he gives a speech you want to cheer. You also have Charlie Hunnam, from SOns of Anarchy, playing the reluctant hero who isn’t all that reluctant which is a beautiful breath of fresh air. It could be Rinko Kikuchi, new comer to americans, and her twist on the female lead stereotypes. She does play into a few of them but what makes it epic is the fact they don’t linger on those moments too long. There’s also Ron Perlman playing a Ron Perlman character in a GDT movie. Just know he is awesome and move on. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day does an amazing JJ Abrams impression but also adds much needed humor and moments to breath in what is otherwise an amazing rollercoaster ride of a film.

All of the above are part of what makes it epic. So what else does? Geek Love. Geek Respect. Del Toro gives his nod to the sci fi that has come before. Star Wars reference? Check. Independence Day references? All over the damn place. Godzilla (old and newer) references, yep. The casting of the voice of GLaDOS as the computer voice, awesome. The one that floored me? ┬áDR. WHO! There is a character who spends the entire second and third act dressed like Eleven! Del Toro loves movies. He loves fantasy and Sci fi and horror and dammit if he doesn’t put all the love for the genre into his work here and it shows. All of his passion and vision and drive to make movies is right here in two hours of film. He even gives credit to other directors in the special thanks! These people weren’t even attached to the film but that doesn’t matter he gives them a nod.

Ok so what about the Giant Robots and Giant Monsters? Also, epic. Now, here is where I have to give a warning, one of the few this movie deserves. Do not expect solid science. The story said we built giant robots and thus we have giant robots. They each have their unique design from each country they are from. They all have their own tricks but if you expect them to obey all the laws of physics, conservation of energy, force and mass equations – just stop. Stop now and turn that part of your brain off and eat some more popcorn. This movie isn’t about the science and because of that I can forgive the lack there of.

So here it is, at the end of the day – aka TL;DR

Pacific Rim is absolutely the must see film of the summer if you want your blockbuster and popcorn. It’s not for everyone and if you aren’t an fan you may not find it as epic, but then again you may.

Please if you are or were only somewhat interested, go see this film. Support it. Support the Genre and hopefully we can get more movies like this and less like so much else of what we have gotten this year.

Summer apocalypse cancelled. We have a winner folks and nothing else this summer has been or will be as awesome in the genre.

Darke Reviews | Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Ok this one is short. Just finished watching it. I enjoyed the living hell out of it. I hadn’t seen the first one completely, still haven’t but you don’t need to see it to enjoy this one.

It is a kids movie first and foremost so there are plot holes a mile wide so don’t go in with anything other than the kids movie lens. It is completely enjoyable at all age levels.

What did it do so well that Lone Ranger and others I have disliked this summer didn’t? Charisma. I have been talking to my partner in movie crime about this at length and what makes a movie these days. When you have characters, even through voice, bring personality and charm to the screen it’s engaging and brings you in. When you have people playing parts that are filled with heart even though they are surrounded by specatle – its endearing. It makes you want to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose. You want the happy ending and care about it. This movie does that.

Don’t get me started on the minions. I may have to make a Minion costume for halloween this year just for the fun and the challenge of it. They are probably the best answer to the Disney animal side kick and are superior in every way.

I about fell out of my chair with the ending sequence (pre credits).

So in short (too late) – if you were at all interested – this one is worth seeing. If you weren’t, maybe give it a chance you might laugh. I did. Now…where can I find a lipstick tazer?

Darke Reviews | The Lone Ranger (2013)

Darke Reviews – The Lone Ranger

Before we begin this review I need to let everyone know that I went into this with very low expectations. After the trailers offered this up as “From the Producers/Director of Pirates of the Caribbean” I got worried. The last two and a half installments of PoC had moments of brilliance shrouded in bad comedy, bad drama and bad timing. That could be assuaged by a good cast and a solid script right?

Well this movie delivered on all my expectations, right at what I expected. Damn.

Remember a few weeks ago with World War Z when I said count the writers? Three. It makes me nervous. Two of them gave us all the previous PoC movies and a few others that show they like doing a whirlwind of locations and shots. The third still has me scratching my head as he wrote some seriously high drama before this such as Revolutionary Road, The Clearing – I Know I didn’t see them either. Sadly these writers in conjunction cannot deliver a gripping story that didn’t have me looking at my watch going “and then?”. I also had moments of “really, that’s what you went with?”;with I kid you not a feces joke and some urine jokes. God I wish I was kidding there.

Ok so the writing doesn’t do it. Maybe the directing will? Sadly no. It’s more of what we’ve come to expect from the PoC series, except not. The PoC series knew how to be fun through the opening credits to the roll of credits at the end. Most of the jokes worked there, the timing, all of it. Here, nearly none of it works. When SILVER is one of the most enjoyable characters of the film you have done something wrong.

I have only a little nostalgia for the Lone Ranger, his notoriety was coming to an end as my childhood was truly beginning. I remember many things from it in a dull haze of being a four-year old. What I don’t remember is the Lone Ranger giving a scream that would make a young girl look at him and go “how did you scream that high?” I do remember “Who was that masked man?” What I don’t remember is mocking his mask. I do remember Tonto actually being played by an Indian (Jay Silverheels). I do not remember Tonto making bad jokes, leering at women and otherwise acting completely insane.

Alright, I know some of you just went – But it’s Johnny Depp! He was approved by the Navajo and Comanche! That may be true. Depp is now only playing a caricature of a character. This is the Native American reincarnation of Captain Jack Sparrow with his odd mannerisms and disjointed way of speaking and truly bizarre facial expressions. So Tonto is front and center in this one more than our Lone Ranger. I don’t have fault with that. I do have fault with the joke that the character is. Granted, I am not Native American, I have no Native blood in me and am not as familiar with the history of The People as I probably could be. While Disney and Depp maintain he is played with respect to me the entire run of his performance seems to be a joke. It may be accurate, I can’t say, but it turned me off watching him.

What of the rest of the cast? Hmm. Armie Hammer (Social Network, Mirror Mirror and yes that’s his real name) seems like he doesn’t know how to play it and he wasn’t given good direction. He seems perpetually a fish out of water as both an actor and character and is somewhat uncomfortable to watch.

We are now 0 for 2 on the acting. Let’s talk about our villains. William Fitchner (he’s so awesome to list his films) is barely recognizable under his Jonah Hex makeup, but carries the most charisma of the film next to the horse that plays Silver (Arctic, yes I am giving the horse credits). That is a problem wouldn’t you think? There is also Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins) as a railroad baron. He plays the part as we have seen in every western-sploitation flick so far. All Rail Road barons are mustache twirling asshats. Wilkinson doesn’t twirl the mustache that I remember but I may have dozed off in that scene. We also get Barry Pepper making a reappearance as a typical western Cavalry officer – see also: jerk.

Supporting cast? James Badge Dale as the Rangers brother is cursed to bad movies this year with World War Z and Iron Man 3 on his credits list. Third time was not a charm for him, though he himself wasn’t bad he played a stereotype to the T. The female lead (Ruth Wilson) and child (Bryant Prince) exist and that’s really all I can say. She apparently plays a character who is afraid of doors but not afraid of heights. If you see it you will know what I mean.

Even the style of storytelling of the film seems like they were trying too hard to make something and didn’t know what it was. The movie is told Princess Bride or Young Guns 2 style and sort of fails at it taking you out of the investment you were almost beginning to build.

Does the movie fail at everything? No. Thankfully. There are 20 minutes that don’t appear until the end of the film where I was truly smiling and entertained. I think at this point that the film makers realized how to make a fun movie again instead of a drawn out plodding mess we’ve seen a hundred times already in every western done in the past thirty years. For twenty whole minutes though I was a kid again with the William Tell overture playing and feeling like they respected the character they were making a movie of. They got it. For twenty minutes of a two and a half hour movie I had fun.

So where does that leave you?

Well TL;DR

I am telling you to pass on this one. Matinee, Full Price, Cheap Seats – Pass. Let Disney know that we deserve better than this retread.

If you absolutely must go see it, so be it. Maybe you will enjoy it more than I did and I hope you do. Some of the people in my theatre (all six of them) did seem to.

I of course as always welcome other people’s opinion on it if you do see it, but really Someone needs to take a silver bullet to this film.