Darke Reviews | Ghostbusters (1984)

So this was a four movie weekend, with November Man, As Above So Below, a second viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy, and this release – Ghostbusters. I had the lovely opportunity to see this on an XD screen friday night. Why the late review? Two main reasons with the first being the boring stuff of housework. The second being I wanted to wait to see how the box office panned out for this weekend to give me something additional to write about.

Well what about the movie itself?

We have a story written by Harold Ramis (Meatballs, Stripes, Caddyshack) and Dan Aykroyd a relative unknown to the writing circuit with only Blues Brothers to his name. Now, they also have some TV under their collective belts as well with Aykroyd as a writer for 56 episodes of Saturday Night Live, now in its 8th season. Ramis is no slouch either, with his work on 47 episodes of the Canadian variant SCTV (Second City Television). It also helps these two are both natural actors and comedians themselves with quite the body of work on them combined. Aykroyd is most famous for his turn as Elwood Blues and his recent success in Trading Places which stayed in the top 10 for an amazing 19 weeks, made more even impressive by it having only 700 theatres for the final 10. Ramis, like Aykroyd also stared in the show he wrote, as well as his own appearance in Stripes.

Pair this comedic writing talent with a director who understands the people he is working with and it should be a recipe for success right? Well thats where we get Ivan Reitman. Director of Meatballs and Stripes. He also was a producer on the wildly insane Animal House and even stranger animated movie Heavy Metal.  A good set of writers and pretty good director should make for a good movie. Thats where acting comes in.

I’ve already talked up Aykroyd(Dr. Raymond Stantz) and Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler). The three main leads are rounded out with Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman. You may have seen him in Meatballs, Caddyshack, or Stripes. Noticing a pattern here? In some cases such repetitive work doesn’t pan out, its like lightning in a bottle. In this case it does as the men can play off each other amazing well with a natural chemistry and charm that makes even Murray’s Venkman, who is rather unlikeable, somewhat charming.
What of the costars?

Off setting the raw comedic talent is the tough girl of sci fi – Sigourney Weaver (Dana Barrett) who played Ellen Ripley in 1979’s Alien. She recently worked with newcomer Mel Gibson in the Year of Living Dangerously, but with only three credits to her name putting her in this comedy is a bit odd. It works, it works perfectly. Another TV to screen transfer is Rick Moranis also from SCTV. There are rumors he has some writing credit on this movie as well – which wouldn’t be a surprise. His portrayal as Louis Tully is a different kind of comedy than the boys with the proton packs give and  works fairly well. Another TV star joins the cast as well with William Atherton as an antagonist – who sadly I tend to agree with his ideals if not his methods. Character actor Ernie Hudson plays the straight man to the boys in brown as Winston Zeddemore. He is just just what this film needed aside from Weaver to ground everything in something relatable and touchable.

From a technical standpoint they did a lot right. They went as practical as they could. Miniatures, composite shots, layers, all of the tricks of the trade were used. The animation work holds pretty well too and in some cases is actually pretty scary when seen on high definition TV.


This movie is funny. This movie is entertaining. I think it can hold up for quite some time to come. If you didn’t see it this weekend – you should have but you have the rest of the week to see it!

Do so. This movie is for all ages! Let me know what you think. I’m ready to believe you.

Now…for the entire surreal element to end. I wanted to write this review as if I was writing it for a new release. It deserves that. Nostalgia aside this thing holds up 30 years later in nearly every department aside from FX. Even then, most of those hold up. The movie is one of the all time greats and is absolutely worth seeing this week.

Now as far as the box office. I said i wanted to write about it. On the four days of release Ghostbusters at 30 years later did almost as much as Sin City 2 did in its second week. Now, that isn’t a fair comparison. You see A Dame to Kill for had FOUR times as many theatres as Ghostbusters. THAT is awesome for a movie 30 years old and terrible for a movie only in its second week. Another kind of awesome fact about Ghostbusters, in its 30 week run back in 1984 it was #1, 2 or 3 for 16 weeks. Only Purple Rain and Red Dawn knocked it out during that time.

If you were an adult who saw this as a child – take your child to it. The kids in my showing really seemed to enjoy it.

Now there’s only one real question – Who ya gonna call?

Darke Reviews | As Above, So Below (2014)

There isn’t a lot that scares me when it comes to putting my own life in danger. I think I’d try anything  (relatively) reasonable if I thought it would be fun. Among those hobbies Urban Exploring. In many cases it is breaking and entering/trespassing – yet not always. I *love* the idea of exploring these old abandoned places. Finding history, truth, and perhaps a bit of mystery in them. So when I saw a movie about a group of individuals urban exploring a part of the Paris catacombs I knew I had to see it.

It’s also worth mentioning that of the jobs that exist out there if I couldn’t be a successful writer or what I am doing now didn’t pan out – my dream job is archaeologist. Much for the same reasons of the Urban Exploring. I love history, mythology, ancient cultures, and finding that which was lost or forgotten. So when the movie starts and there’s an archaeology element to it I am now even more interested.

How does it pan out?

This may be director John Erick Dowdle’s best original film. Along with his brother Drew, who co wrote the movie, I think they hit something new. Their earlier work together is Quarantine; which is just a lackluster translation of the superior spanish film REC. John alone directed the abysmal “Devil” (2010). They elevated some of the previous work , but are showing definite trends, which leads me to the technicals first.

I wish I could have watched the film. I had to keep my eyes closed half of it due to motion sickness from the hand held camera work. That is unusual for me, but it is a problem for some members of the audience who would want to see this. Odd camera angles as well as a preference for handheld cameras are showing in the history of his work and finally – it’s to his benefit. When I could watch the film the camera shots were well framed and added to the tension and emotion appropriately.

This being a horror film in the 21st century I have no anticipation that anyone will live, so I am kept on the edge of my seat wondering. Another technical that works really, really well is the fact with only a few exceptions the movie was filmed in the catacombs, even the piano from the trailer was filmed down there. You can’t fake good atmosphere and it shows in this movie. It was a good decision and I am happy that they made it. The dangers for the location scouting alone were real and it adds to the film to realize so much of it is not a set and that the lights in the shots are the ones on the head cams.

The acting was spot on with only a handful of logical fallacies and failures throughout. Ones that almost have to exist to be a successful horror film. Perdita Weeks does well as the driving force and catalyst for the events. Ben Feldman (Cloverfield, Friday the 13th) sadly has a character I just want to smack, but does as well with it as the trope he is playing allows for. François Civil’s Papillion is probably one of the most enjoyable to watch – and the most honest in his reactions.

I think what the movie does best is that, from a story perspective, it openly acknowledges the supernatural. People don’t spend (waste) time denying it exists when blatantly confronted. They react with horror yes, but within the confines of the narrative accept it in all its dark glory. This to me is a pleasant change of pace, especially when tied to an area of study I enjoy.


Well this review should have gone up last night, but I was left so nauseous that I couldn’t finish. Overall the film is good and for horror fans worth seeing. The audience I was with genuinely seemed to enjoy it.

I just have trouble recommending it due to the camera work.

If you don’t ever risk the sensation of nausea from shaky cam work in excess *and* enjoy horror, absolutely go see it.

If there’s a risk, sorry, just not worth it. Sad that as the attention to detail by using the real catacombs was such a brilliant choice.

Darke Reviews | The November Man (2014)

What? Didn’t hear about this one? Not many did. This is the result of studios dumping films they don’t anticipate will be successful at the end of August. It’s why Guardians of the Galaxy continues to do so well, it has no competition. It also helps that it is good. Schools are coming back into session (or already are…Arizona is weird), final family vacations, etc all contribute to lower box office in this time. The weekend before labor day is particularly notorious for well – studio garbage.

Let’s look at last year this time: One Direction: This is Us, Instructions Not Include, and Getaway. The prior week had The Worlds End and You’re Next, both of which barely eeked into the top 10 on labor day weekend. The total for the top 10 last year was only ~$26 million. That – to Hollywood – isn’t good and not worth investing in. This year doesn’t look to be shaping up much better with The November Man, As Above So Below being the only two new openings in wide release with Ghostbusters (30th anniversary) coming back to theatres. I love my Ghostbusters, you should too. It will be sad, however, if it dominates the weekend – which it might!

So that bit of info understood – should you spend money on November Man this weekend?

I have to admit, the trailers failed this one. I thought I was getting a poor version of the Mechanic (either version, but Bronson/Jan Michael Vincent’s is better). At best it seemed to be a watered down version of Bourne or Spy Game. I’d like to say I was pleasantly disappointed.

The movie is based on the November Man book series by Bill Granger, specifically book 7 “There Are No Spies”. Based on a quick read of the synopsis the words based on are used liberally here. Adapting the novel was Michael Finch (Predators, Agent 47) and Karl Gajdusek (Oblivion and the quickly cancelled Last Resort series). They don’t have a lot of work under their belt and quite honestly it shows. The plot is kind of a muddy mess. It feels like they didn’t know which story elements they wanted to use and took it to a 5 year old to cut and paste as a kindergarten project. This isn’t to say what they wrote was bad, but that when watching it as a whole it is a bit of a sloppy mess.

The movie gives us a familiar story of an over the hill spy (Pierce Brosnan) retired from the game, but pulled back in for one final mission by his old boss. In a world of Spy vs Spy he must outwit his own protege (Luke Bracey) and save a high value target (Olga Kurylenko) who is the key to information that is useful to all sides in this.

Not original I know. It actually feels very cold war, for those that remember it, even if it is referencing more modern conflicts such as the Chechen-Russian war. They don’t ever quite bring me to care if anyone lives or dies. Succeeds or fails. So for a spy thriller they failed in the tension department.

That might fall on director Roger Donaldson, who had previously tried his hand at spies in 2003’s The Recruit (which bombed). He is also familiar with Brosnan from their work on Dante’s Peak in 97 – which also failed. He does have an appropriate bit of flair so while the story falls flat and fails to bring me to care; I find myself enjoying it and the shots he picked. Even the performances he got from his actors, well most of them.

Brosnan does well as Devereaux, our retired spy. He has the certain ennui required for it. He also has the damage and baggage. A few actors could have done it, but I think perhaps a Bond actor does it better than most. Even his action beats are good and the fatigue coming out of them. Relative new comer Luke Bracey (GI Joe: Retaliation, The Best of Me) plays the protege. He’s just ok. I think the role doesn’t give him a lot to work with and he mostly stares his way through the film. There might be something there, but it did not show up here. It’s worth noting he is currently slated to be the new Keanu in the Point Break remake.

The female leads in the film are actually noteworthy. Olga Kurlyenko, whom I adore, from Oblivion and Centurion plays the prize. She isn’t completely helpless though! She has fire in her. She’s a survivor and they let it show. There is also a female assassin in the film Amila Terzimehic who has both good and bad going for her. The good is she is an intelligent, kick butt assassin who uses her brain as things play out. The bad is they don’t use her nearly enough in the film, though based on her IMDB page material was cut that had her in it.

From a technical standpoint, the movie doesn’t do much particularly new but also doesn’t fall to the Greengrass sins of shaky cam. I found myself enjoying the action beats when they occured and the overall pacing was pretty good. The movie doesn’t feel like it’s two hour running time.


So at the end of the night, I enjoyed this movie. It isn’t great. It isn’t new or original. It exists quietly in the spy thriller genre and won’t make any waves and has no real weight to it. It just is.

Yet, I still enjoyed it. I still smiled a few times and looked over to the friend I was watching it with who was enjoying it as well.

So if you have nothing better to do this weekend and want a bit of Spy vs Spy action – give this a shot. Otherwise, go see Ghostbusters (which I am going to do a review of as well)!

This is a three review weekend folks….so one down, two to come.

Darke Reviews | Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Does everyone remember 2005? We got a trailer with some amazing music by the group Cells. It had a beat we had not heard before. It came with visuals we had not seen before.  Sure it was in black and white, but there were splashes of bright colour that accentuated everything. Stark whites against blacks that were positively glowing. It got our attention. A comic book movie unlike other comic book movies. In 19 weeks it doubled its budget domestically. Anyone remember that?

It is worth remembering. The neo noir, pulp film was new fresh and interesting. Robert Rodriguez has left us waiting nearly 10 years for it. The script isn’t right. The cast isn’t ready or too busy. Any number of reasons kept this sequel in production hell.

So is this a Dame to Kill for?

Both the original material here and the film script was by Frank Miller; whom also has a directors credit. Miller, for those who don’t spend their time in comic shops, is one of the more famous comic book writers of this age. His deconstructed reinvention of the Batman in Dark Knight Returns in 1986 might be solely responsible for Batman as we know him today. Miller is also the mind behind 300. To his downside he also gave us Robocop 2 and 3. WARNING – This is not a good thing. Sadly his ability to do sequels seems to be in a word – lacking. This is a disjointed mess that seems to miss most of the charm and black humor of the first film.

Some of this falls on co-director Robert Rodriguez, best known for Desperado, Dusk till Dawn, and Spy Kids. He agreed this was a script to shoot. He agreed on how to stage things How to light the movie. How to do the camera angles. Even the music choices. Both men get the blame for every failure of this film.

There are many.

None of it falls on the cast thankfully. They were given a script and direction to chew scenery. This must be a new diet in California because they went at it with insane glee, mostly. Josh Brolin (Old Boy, Labor Day, Goonies) is probably the least interesting portrayal who mostly threatens to be awesome yet never quite is. Mickey Rourke reprises the role of Marv, a role I am sure he was born to play, and tries to have fun with it but isn’t given nearly as much as he was in the first film. The addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt showed a lot of promise yet again never quite reached the mark. If you want JGL and noir, watch the movie Brick. Eva Green is clearly Jeremy Irons understudy. Scenery is chewed with nothing left behind. Every inch of her talent, and body, is used to full capacity. She works.

Thats the best I can say.

Visually, the movie kinda fails. It takes some of the worst elements of the visuals from the original and over uses them. Where Sin City uses colour sparingly and with only a few exceptions keeps some of the colours muted this one over uses them. While they are as important to the story as anything else, just don’t have the same punch. Not to say they aren’t vibrant because they are. They just don’t work well or are so used that it doesn’t mean as much. The action scenes when they happen are easy to follow but not nearly as interesting or engaging. Odd angles and unique palettes are missing here. It’s just dull.


The movie ultimately lacks charm. The first one was charming. It had its own charisma. The good guys, while paying a price, won. It ended on a note it began with. It was a whole entity. It was a solid piece.

This is a disjointed mess of stories that just don’t seem to matter. Even the first one which showed some of the female body and blood was sparring in it. Nothing is spared here. They seem to be trying to one up themselves and fail at every turn. I think Eva Green is beautiful, one of the most beautiful actresses around, but I find she’s better with her clothes on and teasing rather than what we get here.

Sorry folks, I cannot recommend this one. As I wrote the review it went from a solid meh to a blargh.

I can’t even recommend something else to spend your money on; just watch Sin City again. With nothing much coming out in the next few weeks reviews will likely be sparse unless I find new stuff in limited release or do some DVD reviews for flavor.

Darke Reviews | If I Stay (2014)

Everyone knows my general rules on comedies, but have you ever noticed I don’t do romances? Drama’s are rare? The real reason here for the romantic drama’s or general drama’s is while they may be well acted, well written, even well directed – they don’t interest me. They don’t trigger an emotional response to go see it. This isn’t a denigration of the movie or even the genre, but simply where my tastes tend to run. I need something that gets my pulse going or maybe makes me smile.

So why in all that I find holy did I see “If I Stay”?

Let me open with something personal – I should so not have seen this movie after the recent ending of a long term relationship. I should not have seen this after closing off so many bridges in my blood family life, or at least reminders of why they exist.

Why did I see it?

Let me get into the acting right away then. Chloë Grace Moretz. If you’ve talked to me in person you already know what I think of this young actress. If you have not, then let me explain to you that she is one of the best actresses of her age in Hollywood today. At 17 she already has 50 acting credits to her name. She really came onto the scene in 2010 with Kick-Ass as the infamous Hit Girl. Since then she has covered the gambit of role types from comedy, to action, to horror, to voice acting, to childrens movies. This is her turn in true Romance. Once again she impresses.

Moretz (as Mia) carries the movies on her shoulders like a pro. She is believable in her role and brings all the emotions she needs. She makes you laugh, she makes you smile, she makes you cry, and she makes your heart ache. She gets assistance from a list of actors most folks have never heard of. Jamie Blackley as her boyfriend Adam, Joshua Leonard as her father, Liana Liberato as her BFF Kim, and Mireille Enos (Gangster Squad and The KIlling) as her mother. Everyones turn against Moretz brings a complete performance.

This is the family many of us wish we had. This is the kind of romance and love that comes only a few times in a lifetime, if at all, and we want it. That makes the movie all the more painful as it unfolds. The tears don’t start much until act three. There are some before, but know that tears will come. Thats the sign of a good story.

Based on the book of the same title by Gayle Forman released in 2009, it was adapted for the screen by Shauna Cross. Cross was the writer of Whip It, also back in 2009. A critically praised by overlooked film with some strong women in Roller Derby. I am happy to see Cross return to the screen with this one. The story does a good job on its pacing, its emotions, and the vignettes of life as it plays out. Even Mia and Adam’s relationship, while still having the Hollywood touch, has a good pacing to it. It takes the time it needs. It feels natural, even as it blossoms it feels right. I remember what that was like and to me they nailed it.


If this is your genre – Romance/Drama’s – WATCH THIS.

Even through the tears it made me smile, it made me want. It made me miss the touch of another. It made me cry for the characters loss and the for Mia as it all plays out. If the movie can evoke such deep emotion as well as this one did – then it did its job.

I was never bored and the movie kept me hooked. This one is a good one folks.

Oh yeah – bring the tissues!

Darke Reviews | Expendables 3 (2014)

Ah the stars of yore trying to get one last paycheck. Except, it’s not the stars of yore in this one; is it? What happens when you try to make a movie where you have older actors and individuals trying to pass the torch to younger ones? This sounds like one of the rumored Ghostbusters 3 plots. Should Ghostbusters 3 ever come the out of pre production ecto containment unit it’s been in, the producers need to watch this movie for pointers.

Which pointers? Good? Bad? Ugly?

Well…rather than keep a director between films they went with a new guy. Seems silly to not keep whats working, but who am I to understand studio logic. Ok, other film buffs reading this stop laughing at that oxymoron. This time we get Patrick Hughes who has previously directed a relatively small scale film called Red Hill. I’ve seen this and it’s good. I’ve seen Expendable 3 and I can tell you a budget isn’t always the best thing. He keeps a good style and knows the right places to focus and what he does with what he has is actually really good. Sadly, Stallone is one of the producers so I know how his hands may have been tied. I also said he does well with what he had.

What he has is a Three Writer Script. You may commence shuddering if you’ve read my reviews before. Stallone, aside from starring and producing also provides the Story credit and one of the screenplay credits. Olympus has Fallen writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt gives us our other two. As much as I like Olympus has Fallen for what it does right, this script fails in almost all those respects.

It doesn’t make you care about any of the characters that are being introduced of which there are many. You can’t keep track of the ones that you have from the previous films and nothing with them even seems to matter. The stakes *just* aren’t there. In a PG-13 film they just didn’t go enough to the places they need to. I am not talking blood and guts, I can get good action without that. I’d rather have no blood than CGI blood. I mean risks. I mean violence. I mean honest to darkness threat to characters to make me even believe for a moment they may be in danger.

But this is Expendables. Why bother with a plot? That’s actually the problem. They did. It needs to be judged. It’s a very thin plot and honestly they spend more time on the slow beats than they should have. Much like Expendables 1 there’s a lot of things that are focused on that no one wants. The first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes have it all. The down side is the movie runs just over two hours. That means there’s nearly eighty minutes of – why am I watching this?

Acting? Ok now you are trying to make *me* laugh writing this. That is so not in this film. Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Li, Couture, and reprise their roles from the first two films. Willis was asked to leave after being a prima donna. There’s even a joke in the movie about it. We introduce Snipes who gets a lovely little joke at his own expense. Gibson who seems to be playing an evolved version of one of his former characters. Kelsey Grammer, I do not know why he is in this either.  Banderas is a joke that runs too too long. Ford walks in, is Ford and walks off. Its enough.

We also introduce Victor Ortiz (Boxer and Dancing with the Stars…no seriously!), Kellan Lutz (from the godawful Hercules earlier and Twilight), Glenn Powell since Chris Evans was busy, and our first real female – Ronda Rousey an MMA fighter. Rousey and Lutz are the most memorable additions. Rousey shining as a fighter in her sequences and generally being kinda awesome. She should get used more if she wishes and can be a new action star along side Carano and Gadot. We do need more women action heroes and she’s a good start.

The action, when we get it is explosive (no pun intended) and intense. It’s well done, well choreographed and just generally good. When you can see it. There’s the tiniest bit of shaky cam for reasons that I cannot fathom. Quick cuts hide some of the flaws. The only one with a really good hand to hand fight is Rousey. Her fight is good and watchable. The gunplay is all you’d want to see from an 80’s film and just as ridonkulous.


Yeah, so this happened. It is ridiculous, but if you can just watch the opening act and final act you get everything you want. Nothing else is relevant. Really – NOTHING else. It might explain why it tanked in the box office this weekend. It only made 3 times what Willis was asking to be paid for his work in the movie. I will let that sink in.

If you are bored and want some action schlock – go see this. If you can find a way to catch just the opening and ending you’ll be in really great shape.

I WAS entertained mostly, but I don’t believe in sending folks to movies for mostly.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy (again), TMNT, or save your money for SIn City: A Dame to Kill for.

Darke Reviews | The Giver (2014)

From the acclaimed book – that I had never heard of until now. Though apparently it came out in my junior year of high school and was praised by fans and reviewers alike. I suppose one of the little joys in my life is what I did read isn’t often adapted. When it is, I know it will be done badly. There’s a meme that goes around “don’t judge a book by its movie.” This may be true. Actually it is very true. The same, however, can be said about the movies too. They deserve the same independent thought and treatment and criticality as any book. The important word there is, of course, independent. Judge each piece of art on it’s own merits.

So where does The Giver land?

Lets start with the story. Dystopian Utopia where we have reached an Orwellian nightmare of Harrison Bergeron and 1984. Everyone has their role in society. Everyone is equal. Everyone but a single role – The Receiver of Memory. See in order to create harmony the leaders of this new society rising from the ‘Ruin” erased all memory, all emotion, all individuality. See with that we can have peace.

Have you seen this movie before? Perhaps read it? Yes. Honestly, the movie does absolutely nothing original with the story. It contains all the same tropes we’ve seen since Vonnegut and Orwell wrote about them in their respective works. The loss of all that makes us human will deliver us unto a state of surviving without living. A near automaton like society of living, breathing, non-thinking, non-feeling entities. Sadly, I have not even reached spoiler territory as all of this is shown in the trailers.

First time writer, MIchael MItnick, is one of the two parties responsible for the script. Aiding him is another relative newcomer to the silver screen. Robert B. Weide. Weide, unlike MItnick, has some published writing work, mostly in the documentary field. Including one on Vonnegut, which explains much of what I see in this work  I cannot speak for Lois Lowry’s original material, but what I do see is: Equilibrium, Bergeron, Divergent, and 1984 put into a blender for a nice puree with this as a result. I don’t want to say it is bad, but it does nothing for me as a story. It does nothing new. It does nothing I haven’t really seen or experienced a dozen times before over the past decade of Dystopian futures. It doesn’t do anything I haven’t read in far better, far more controversial satires of society from Vonnegut and Orwell.

Some of my ambivalence must be laid on the feet, hands, and eyes of director Phillip Noyce. This director who has given us Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and Salt probably gives his most mediocre attempt. The passion, the angles, the emotion is as missing from this as it is from the characters in the film. With the three films he gave us previously there were successful  tones of a society of acceptance and rebelliousness against certain governmental entities. This movie lacks all of that. I mean they rear their head, but they don’t MEAN anything. I hate to use the Caps like that but its hollow. I don’t know if its just that he doesn’t know how to do the same thing for teens and tweens as he does for adults or that the studio had too much of  a say in what to do with this to try to make it another Hunger Games.  I’d like to think it was the studio, but I really do not know. I just know this is is not his best work and I have come to expect more from some people.

The acting?

I am reasonably sure now Jeff Bridges takes every wise mentor role that comes along. Some more sane than others, this one lands on the more sane side of things with an ever increasing lack of audible understanding of what he is saying. Meryl Streep is the physical manifestation of authority in this one and may have lost a bet or had a child who loved the book. One of Bon Temp’s favorite vampires, Alexander Skarsgard, is completely forgettable in this and proof that while a good actor (and good looking) a mediocre script and boring character still cannot be saved. Katie Holmes is just as bland. I suppose that’s intentional, but why use real talent when you don’t want them to actually do anything requiring range? Unless their talents are required for minimalism – in which case, ok?

The three young characters are played by Odeya Rush (We Are What We Are), Cameron Monaghan (Vampire Academy), and Brenton Thwaites. Thwaites seems to be having an interesting year with important roles in Oculus, Maleficent, and The Signal. Having seen two of the three films I can say the boy is actually able to show some range and has a bit of unrefined talent. If he is given a shot, especially after what was expected of him in this – there could be something there. The other two are, much like the other actors given so little to work with that their performances are as flat as the rest of the film. Rush shows a little, but again it is so little and so simplistic I can’t say how well she did.

The camera work and colour options elected in the film were overall pretty good from a technical standpoint. The pacing is pretty decent and kept me interested and not nodding off. So where does that leave us?


The movie is a solid meh. If the books are great as they say fantastic. The movie does absolutely nothing good or fascinating. There’s a dozen other films out in the past few years that hit all of these issues in a much more interesting and deep manner. It wants to be something but it ultimately fails.

A pair of teenage girls who were in the movie said they really liked it so that’s something I suppose.

I cannot recommend this film. If you want a dystopian teen movie go watch Divergent or Hunger Games (again)

Darke Reviews | Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Wow was it hard to avoid reviews for this today! The skims that I saw as I scrolled through my news feed were not good. Even talk at work today indicated this wouldn’t be good. Now to preface this review there are some ground rules to understand where I come from on it.

1. I have not read the comic, but was aware of it when I watched the original cartoon.
2. I have watched the original cartoon, every episode. My favorite is the catwoman from channel 6.
3. I have watched a single video/AMV from *one* of the new reboots (2003 I think). It was epic. It was dark. It worked. Wish I could find it again.

So where does this movie fall in?

First thing is first. Remove the Nostalgia glasses. Acknowledge how bloody cheesy the original animated series was. If you think it was serious in any respect, I present you Hot Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X. A Giant Brain living inside the STOMACH of a robot. Beebop and Rocksteady. If you can now acknowledge how ridiculous some of this is, we can continue. That is to say nothing of the core concept. Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. Trained. By. A Rat. If you can’t just skip the TL;DR right now.

If you have embraced the insanity of the concept and all that comes with it; I present to you TMNT. As I have said this is based on a comic originally written and drawn by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, who did the opening title sequence. If they didn’t do it – someone who imitates their style did. This movie does bear the dreaded triple writing credit beyond that. Josh Appelbaum (Mission Impossible 4 (the good one), Alias), Andre Nemec (who has all the same credits as Appelbaum), and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent). They *did* embrace the insanity. Their sin? (ok one of them) Too much human. Too little Turtle power. Their homage? I can’t count the number of callbacks to the original run I picked up on and laughed at (mostly alone).

What about Michael Bay? Well…he is only a producer. The Director here is Jonathan Leibesman. The same man who gave us Wrath of the Titans, an unwanted and yet somehow better sequel to an unwanted remake of a classic film. He also gave us Texas Chainsaw Massacre 50. No that’s not it’s actual title. It might as well be. To his favor he gave us one of the better alien invasion sci fi epics with Battle Los Angeles. Yes, it had problems with the camera work but as a film it worked. He does much the same, good and bad here, with TMNT. His camera work makes much of the action hard to take in, but what you do see appears to be epic looking and kind of awesome. Decent tension and ok pacing.

Acting? Oof. well, it wasn’t too bad actually. Megan Fox (Transformers, Jennifers Body), Will Arnett (Arrested Development, Monsters vs Aliens) get far too much screen time and most of it’s groan worthy – but they make it work.  I don’t know if its the writing or acting or both. Whoopi Goldberg was here for a paycheck or perhaps some debt to satan for Sister Act 2? Tony Shalhoub as Splinter? A bit jarring yes, but because it is a man of his talents it works. The brothers are fine. The personalities mostly realized with the usual focus on Mikey and Raph. Their voice actors, including Johnny Knoxville do just fine. William Fitchner makes everything he does better (Drive Angry is a perfect example) and brings the ham and cheese with him as he chews scenery in a way that even Jeremy Irons can appreciate.

Effects. I have heard many comments about how creepy they are. “The noses are weird.” “The teeth and animations are just off putting.” Meh I say. They weren’t that bad. They’re strangely more appropriate than what we had before so I guess I don’t mind them. Not all of the effects are clean and the CGI over practical is evident but I got to ignore that to see the Ninja Turtles on screen for the first time in 20 years and they *do* look better than we got in the previous films. Period. Sorry my opinion on this one.

I want to give the Villain a bit of a special talk. I had a guy behind me dissing the look of the new Shredder. My only retort – you have to make a guy who is supposed to be a walking cuisinart look threatening. Sorry it needs to be armor. It needs to be samurai like. It needs a lot of blades. A LOT of blades. Did they go a bit overboard on it? Eh maybe, but so be it. This is a movie where a man in ridiculous bladed armor had to take on four six foot turtles wielding dual katana’s, nunchaku, sai, and metal collapsible bo staff. Check your suspension of disbelief at the door.


I had a group of people behind me who hated it. The guy next to me, whom I asked, and his  lady loved it. They felt it captured the feeling of the original run. The person I saw it with felt the same.

I happen to agree with them.

It really brought the heart of the original comics and animated to film. It is very superficial, but lets face it most kids movies are folks. This *is* a movie for kids. There’s enough here for adults, especially all of the aforementioned callbacks, but it is a childrens movie. That grants it a lot of forgiveness from me.

What also grants it forgiveness? It was a fun little romp through my own childhood. It just kinda works

Final recommendations:
TMNT is better than most reviewers are giving it credit for. It is not for everyone, but if you have kids – its an absolute this weekend. The kids I saw leaving the theatre in their masks were running and tumbling and just enjoying themselves. What else is it supposed to do?

If you are an adult who wants to see it – take off the nostalgia glasses, sit back, and just try to enjoy it. You just might.

If you weren’t interested – neither this review nor the movie will change your opinion.

At the end of the day TMNT is kinda fun.


Darke Reviews | Into the Storm (2014)

Missing a movie on premier night annoys me, especially when its due to illness. Still being in a lot of pain watching a movie I already have mixed feelings on doesn’t usually bode well for the films review. Sad fact, but being uncomfortable watching a film does have add bias. I really – really – debated this one.

I love the original (yes, thats intentional) Twister for all its flaws. It got me and a rag tag bunch of my friends decide to try to storm chase that summer. No we didn’t catch anything and we thought it would be a good idea at the time. I also didn’t want to like this because of how “real” they were trying to be with the storm. How not hollywood they were with some shots and how hollywood they were with others. I had friends in Joplin. I had friends in City of Heroes who would have to log off for tornado warnings. I have friends, people I care about deeply, still in Tornado alley. I follow the real deal here as well, and I cried last year when someone trying to make the world a better place by chasing, died with his son and partner. I never met him, but I understood him (Tim Samaras if you are so interested).

So I really wanted to hate this movie. I have plenty of reason (Hollywood and a hundred years of history) to hate it. So did I?

This is normally where I talk about the writer and director. The writer, John Swetnam, has little to his credit beyond Step Up All In. The director, Steven Quale, has little to his directing background beyond Final Destination 5. He has however, worked on numerous other films including being second unit director on Avatar. Neither of them do anything particularly new or different here worth commenting on. Ultimately their biggest success is not beating us over the head with environmentalism. It was a risk that the movie began to edge towards and changed it’s mind. Their second biggest success is writing children who felt like children. It was a touch cliche at times, but I at least felt like I was listening to and watching teenagers at the appropriate moments (mostly).

No one in this movie is in danger of winning an Oscar. Let’s be blunt here. This is a disaster flick. This is Twister brought up to the science and tech that we’ve learned in the near 20 years since Twister (has it really been that long?). Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) plays the tough but caring dad. Sarah Wayne Callies (Walking Dead) is the weather geek. Max Deacon (Not much to credit) and Nathan Cress (iCarly) play the rebellious but loyal teen siblings. Matt Walsh plays the  final stereotype of the man willing to do anything to get his shot. There are absolutely no surprises in any performance as they play their stereotypes to a T. Ultimately it means I don’t care if any of them live or die since there are no surprises in them, nothing to make them “more”. There’s really never a sense of true risk.

From am FX standpoint, we have Twister. Honestly, twister did some of the effects better 20 years ago. That is not good. Oh the damage to structures is good. Very realistic and uncomfortably so from anyone, like me, who has watched plenty of video from various storms tearing apart schools, hospitals, and other places people may be hiding. The plane sequence is as nonsensical in the final product as it is in the trailer and looks nearly as fake. Even the sound clips here are the metal equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream. Not good.

What is good? The impact of the storms. If the storms themselves aren’t the best, the actual damage path shown after, Some of the destruction we bear witness to, and the camera work. The movie is a riff on Found Footage. It’s all told through cameras, but apparently everyone has steady cam rigs which means every shot is clear, crisp, and not shaky. THIS IS GOOD. It allows the movie to be watchable. Had i had another Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, or Earth to Echo here I think I’d have left. Its done. The use of steady cam allows this to be watchable.


I don’t hate it. I found myself enjoying what they did.

There is ONE shot, one shot where the entire audience (bout 100 folk) gasped in amazement. For that the movie got brownie points. It got a reaction out of the audience – the entire audience. If you can do that, in a positive way, then your movie succeeds regardless of any opinion levied.

It’s not a great movie and I really don’t feel comfortable recommending it, but if you read my comment above – the movie still succeeds. It certainly is not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s a touch more respectful than I thought it would be (mostly. the Matt Walsh character is a far more jerkish version of Sean Casey).

If you really want to watch and appreciate chasing? Watch the Weather Channel – they have three different shows about it and they are far more educational and at times, even entertaining. They are about the real people doing the real work. I don’t need Hollywood when the real thing is very accessible to me.

So –
If you were at all interested – yeah go ahead. I don’t imagine you’ll hate it.
If you weren’t at all interested – give it a hard pass.
If you were the least bit curious, or after reading my review curious, matinee at BEST. Redbox/Netflix at worst.

Darke Reviews | Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Oh I had expectations going into this one. I put this pretty much at the bottom of the list of Marvel Cinematic Universe I would enjoy. Why you ask? Well to be honest I have no love for awkward, uncomfortable, or slapstick comedy. I also have no love for some of the songs on Star Lords awesome mix #1 (You can see the Nerdist for the full list www.nerdist.com/2014/07/james-…. Spirit in the Sky and Hooked on a Feeling may be two of my most hated songs ever. Never liked them, never will. No real rational reason, they just don’t appeal to me and tend to get overplayed to my perception. This is what the trailers sold me. This is what I was expecting. I was really really not looking forward to this movie.

Some of my coworkers derided me for going into a movie with expectations such as these. That I should go in with a clear mind and thought on what the movie could potentially be. This is nigh impossible. I have avoided behind the scenes sites as much as possible these days to avoid the spoilers that I can, but trailers have a job to sell a movie. What they show sets expectations. Some movies defy them – Hercules last week. Some movies lie to you with them – such as the remake of Clash of the Titans. Some movies are failed by them – Lord of War. So where did Guardians of the Galaxy fall, with a trailer that in my opinion failed it.

-please note, this review is as always spoiler free, and my opinion on the trailer seems largely unique-

Obviously this one is based on a comic, one of which I have only passing familiarity. That is to say I know it exists. Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) is also one of the ones responsible for the script. Nicole Perlman has no listed writing credits before this, but has an announced Black Widow treatment in the works? Interesting. Writer Director as I’ve said before can be very good or very bad. It is rarely in the middle. Until today. The story here is a mandated origin story. They didn’t get a choice. You need to introduce a three meter walking tree, a talking racoon, a green assassin, and a blue guy with red tattoos; oh and the human male lead. There’s also a plot to introduce, villains, worlds, a galaxy of races. Now – do it in 2 hours. Good luck.

So while the plot is a bit of a hot mess, I can look past it because they were asked the near impossible in the 21st century. Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate – all of these have built in fanbases and worlds we know that need little introduction for the average theatre goer. Even the newbie can be brought up to speed quickly with these franchises, this one is a tad more difficult. They do it as well as they possibly can and fairly well. Everyone gets a character moment on both sides of the coin. Just enough for you to get who they are and why they are. What their world view is. Some are treated better than others, and well quite honestly some aren’t treated as good as they should be or could be. I will get into that as I talk about the characters.

Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Zero Dark Thirty) plays our noble space pirate. He’s Malcolm Reynolds but doesn’t quite have the easy going charm that Fillion does. This is probably intentional and if so it works, he is also the least interesting character in the movie. He is regularly upstaged by more colourful (literally) costars. The reigning champion of the film is Rocket. Yes. That’s right the Raccoon is the hands down winner of I want to watch him. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, A-Team) voices the four legged menace to society and proves he has that kind of natural charisma that works if you see him on camera or not. Vin Diesel voices Groot, the aforementioned tree who is always fun to watch when he emotes or gives you an “I am Groot”. Dave Bautista of WWE fame, plays Drax the Destroyer. He doesn’t act a lot, but with the character he has thats a good thing. What he does is kick butt and be large and in charge. He is also one of the more humorous characters and as enjoyable in his dryness as Diesel is in his …quirkiness?

Sadly, Zoe Saldana does nothing particularly new here. Her Gamora is nearly the same character as Columbiana and Aisha (The Losers). Tough, beautiful, action girl. This isn’t horrific by any means. We need more like her. I just wish they had done more to break her from a stereotype. Script problems – not actress here. Additional script problems come in the form of the nemesis Nebula. Karen Gillan (Dr. Who and Occulus) gets our lovely blue alien. The entirety of act 1 – she is menacing and you believe her deadly. Something happens half way through act two where she loses this and seems to be a shadow of her former threat. This is compounded in what should be an epic fight between her and Gamora that just is…weaker than it should be. Script problems I cannot forgive there. Gillan, however, proved we need to see more of her in the cinema in the action, horror, and sci fi genre’s. She pulled off what could have been a difficult role and did it well. The story and script failed her. The director failed her. Lee Pace (Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Halt and Catch Fire) is just never quite the threat he needs to be. I don’t know who to blame there, but it is. He exists. the threat exists, I just don’t get his menace if it is supposed to exist.

Visually, the movie is beautiful. The darkening of 3D hurts the film as it seems to have a focus on bright vibrant colours. They just get lost in the 3D. Everything else looks very clean and easy to watch. Rocket, Groot, the ships, the space stations, etc look great. Rocket especially. We aren’t quite talking Uncanny Valley here, but it’s superb.

Music. *sigh*. Yep still hate most of it, but it was no where near as prominent as I feared. They even used a song I like with the Runaways “Cherry Bomb”. A few times it works. Other times its backdrop. The Star Lord introduction works well enough to let you know who and what you are dealing with. This one falls to different strokes for different folks. I will never like the soundtrack, but if you do – enjoy! The score left a bit to be desired as it reminded me too much of Avengers.


Alright here we go. Yep, the trailers failed this one for me.

It’s good. The movie is solid. It feels a bit pacing hurt at times, but its more entertaining than I thought it would be. It made me laugh at times. I enjoyed the action. I enjoyed the finale. The humor wasn’t AS bad as I thought it would be.

That said, there’s some language in this one. If you want to keep your kids from male anatomy or fecal matter (see I keep my reviews clean), then I wouldn’t take them to see it. If it doesn’t matter – then cool. Enjoy.

So there you go. Guardians of the Galaxy is a good, entertaining movie. Not the strongest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but most definitely not the weakest.

Next week may be a double review with TMNT and Into the Storm. TMNT is absolute…the other. Eh see a post tomorrow on that