Darke Reviews – Victor Frankenstein (2015)

I love the tag line, Witness the Origin of a Monster and his creation. This was billed as horror film believe it or not, though I was expecting something along the lines of Stephen Sommers The Mummy when I walked in, so more along the lines of a horror comedy, this was reinforced by the PG-13 rating, the trailer above, and just the general tone of the two leads as they were pitching the film. Now obviously I am a fan of all things Horror, and even had the opportunity to watch the original in the theatre – and highly recommend it.

It’s alive, it’s alive. In the name of God I know what it feels like to be God…” is the original line uttered by the mad Doctor; just how mad was this one?

The movie was written entirely for the screen by Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) and directed by Paul McGuigan best known for such films as Push and Lucky Number Slevin; which are two entirely underrated films. Suffice to stay these two have a limited body of work, but what work they do have I really enjoy. Now, I did state I was expecting the Mummy, but what I got was closer to Sherlock Holmes meets The Wolfman (2010).  An interesting view of that wet gritty London atmosphere during the turn of the century we get to see more of each year as films come out for that period. The film, unlike Lucky Number Slevin, is not subtle; nor does it try to be. It keeps it’s tongue dancing at it’s cheek without sticking it firmly there. It takes itself seriously, but not too seriously. There is an interesting balance that I am still not 100% sure worked. One thing I did find that worked rather well is the characters of Victor (McAvoy) and that of Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott). These two are brilliant opposite sides of the same coin. Supremely intelligent to the point they nearly dwarf those around them. Perceptive, driven, and most of all firmly believing they are in the right. What makes them opposite is that Turpin is a man of faith as as a well as the man of the Law. Frankenstein is a man of Science and a man who no longer believes in God. They show the extremes of both sides….and that both sides can have unreasonable extremes.

I don’t consider it a spoiler to say that Victor Frankenstein is a man of extremes. The story is over a century old, it’s iconic, it’s part of our culture and even parlance as the mad scientist started with him. How they portray the madness that grips him and what drives him is what varies from film to film. A God complex in the original work is pretty much standard, but the levels of madness, depravity, and obsession change from narrative to narrative. This one truly touches on the near mental illness levels of obsessive compulsive behavior, or even perhaps addiction, which McAvoy (X-Men Days of Future Past, Wanted)  runs with like he’s being chased by Usain Bolt. What separates this from other similar works is the focus on Igor, as played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter, Horns). Most movies focus on the Man and the Monster. This one focuses on the Man and his Assistant and Partner. They make Igor more than a hunched servant uttering “yes master” or simply doing the bidding of the Doctor. He is an integral part of the project and the moral compass of the film. The chemistry between Radcliffe and McAvoy is beyond the pale and I have a feeling that Tumblr ships are sailing as I write this review.

Who knew that with a few small tweaks that this could be a romantic comedy between the two?

From a technical standpoint the movie begins to run into issues. It plays a little close to the Sherlock films side of things and has some enormous pacing issues. The movie runs short at 1 hour 49 minutes, but even with that the pace is just a touch too plodding to really sit back and let myself have a good time. This isn’t to say that I didn’t, but there were moments where it ran too slow and my interest waned. It hurts the movie quite a bit. There are jumps of logic and timing that really just do not work. That said, they use a brilliant technique to avoid too much gore. I was really pleased to see it and did not find it distracting in the slightest. I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss The Creature. It was large. It was in charge. It was not CG. It did look like some CG overlay in a shot or two, but otherwise it was impressive when you finally get to see it.

TL;DR?

I had fun. My friend and I were laughing at the end, mostly at the two mains and how much fun it looked like they had. There are some really subtle references to the original classic, and even a few to Young Frankenstein. It isn’t a great film as the pacing truly hurt it, but it wasn’t a bad one. I can’t put my finger on what was missing, but something was. It’s kinda a mess, but nothing in the movie particularly annoyed me, except that it just felt overall kinda “Welp”.

If you are looking for something this year to watch other than Hunger Games, until December 18th, this might be it.I wish that I could give a strong recommendation, but I can’t.

 

Potential reviews coming that might be worth something:

  • Legend (Tom Hardy)
  • Krampus (by the makers of Trick R Treat)

 

Advertisements

Darke Reviews – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

“I volunteer as tribute!”

If you were to have a vote on the top 10 iconic lines from film in the past decade, or even this millenia, surely this should make it near the top. It is a powerful line and powerful moment that introduced us to the world of Panem and Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire. That was a mere three years ago, I have to admit I was shocked when I remembered how recent it was, as it feels like we’ve been living with Katniss and Peeta far longer. Studios have been looking for a franchise to come along and be as strong as this one; with only middling successes with Divergent and Maze Runner, which let’s face it pale by comparison.

So three years and approximately, 1.1 billion dollars later – where do we stand?

Let’s face it. I could stop the review here. If you’ve seen the others, you will be seeing this as well. I could (and will) go on about technical aspects of the film, but regardless of what I say anyone who is engaged this far with the franchise isn’t about to stop now. So this review won’t be a breakdown of the director (Francis Lawrence), writers (Suzanne Collins, Peter Craig, Danny Strong), or even the actors really. I want to talk about how I felt watching the movie. Things I realized.

I was mildly invested at the beginning after the lackluster feeling Part I left me with, but at the same time I have 6 hours + with these characters most of whom I like.  I had a conversation before the film about who I like and don’t, and while Gale drew the short straw as someone I dislike and Peeta was close second, Haymitch, Cinna, Finnick, Beetee, Johanna topped the list as my favorites. Where was Katniss? Well earlier in the week there was another Facebook conversation about Katniss, and I can be quoted as:

She IS a prop. She is also a survivor, she will do whatever it takes to live, but the reason she is important in the narrative is that she is the Noble Sacrifice. The martyr. She is 100% done with the world by the end of the first film. She still is a prop for other people with little action of her own volition other than defiance. That said, I enjoy the movies. The first book is ok. Is she a bad icon? Yes. But she’s one of the few film icons girls really have and there are traits worth praising.

I may have been mistaken. I think she is one of the truly strongest young female characters in film. She is a survivor. She started taking initiative. She took agency for her own life at every opportunity. Yes she needed help, but so do we all. What matters most about Katniss – she is one of the few characters we get that feels human. While Jennifer Lawrence was 23 when the first film came out Katniss wasn’t. She was still a child. She was a victim who refused to let herself be a victim. She was a child. She was a child who watched an even younger child be murdered in front of her and REFLEXIVELY killed another human being. They let that show. A few in character years later and she is breaking. There’s a speech near the beginning of the film that I adore as it tells you everything you need to know about her for the rest of the film. Jennifer Lawrence sells every bloody moment of pain, of fear, of weakness, of rage, and of being “done”. It’s all there in her performance.

Most importantly she is human. She reacts like a human. She reacts like a good person. She is one of the most “Real” characters in film. That needs to be celebrated.

So where does Katniss sit now as the franchise comes to an end? She’s still not my favorite overall, but she’s up there. I think this movie changed a lot of my opinion on her as I finally watched her character finish her arc. I was satisfied. I felt that things were complete.

For their part, everyone else’s arc concluded the way I think they should have. Each actor did a good job conveying what they needed to and each had enough charisma on screen to make me care one way or another.

On my more typical technical aspects, I think the movie may have been ten minutes too long. A few shots just lingered into awkwardness. A few shots felt extraneous.  The effects were top end from make up experts such as Ve Neil (Face/Off), and others who have won on Face/Off as part of the crew. The opening effect is one of the most solid I’ve ever seen and the movie really doesn’t let up on those practical effects the rest of the running time. The CG Hounds were…ok. They looked like left over stock footage from the garbage that was I Am Legend. I forgive them, a rare thing with effects work,  as they are meant to be artificial.

TL;DR?

The movie is 100% Serviceable. It’s the ending that needed to happen. It has no real surprises. It’s the right conclusion for the right arc. It WORKS. More film writers should watch this to learn how to nail the final act; something so many many fail at.

It didn’t have an emotional gut punch like other films do, but I also have no regrets here. I have no real qualms with this film. I don’t think it’s the greatest. I don’t think it’s the most fun. It is what it needs to be.

It should be watched. It was a good movie. Not just ok, but actually good.

 

Darke Reviews – Spectre (2015)

As a complete aside before we begin the review, do people not know how not to bathe in cologne or perfume? Seriously the past two times I’ve had to be with people in public places this week someone sat near me who positively reeked of some sort of fragrance and gave me a borderline headache. Unsurprisingly I was surrounded by men in this movie, there were a total of five other women in the showing I was in. Back on topic of course we have the latest installment of the Bond franchise since the reboot nine years ago with Casino Royale, this will be the last installment for Daniel Craig as the actor is done with the role.

Is this the send off her deserved?

The first thing to address is the writing, let us now apply the rule of three. We have three story credits, and an additional credit on screenplay. We have Robert Wade (Die Another Day, Casino Royale), Neal Purvis (The World Is Not Enough, Quantum of Solace), John Logan (Last Samurai, Star Trek Nemesis) on the story and screenplay. All three of these men have worked on most of the last five Bond films. They have also worked on multiple high profile projects of rather good quality and others….less so. Adding to the screenplay credit is Jez Butterworth, writer on two good (Black Mass, Edge of Tomorrow). All of these men have a long history of relatively solid films with coherent plots and stories I actually cared about and what happened.

So what happened here? I cared for nothing. No one mattered. Nothing mattered. It was all off camera or so distant as to be unrelatable. Motivation? What’s that? Seriously, there is none. NONE. Nothing in this movie matters or makes sense. Sure the trigger does. But so little else does. The seductions do not work. The interplay does not work. Decision making on the part of the characters makes little sense. This thing is a bloody mess. I saw glimpses of things that could have been and then lost it as the following scenes progressed.

The blame must go to the director as well, Sam Mendes. Again this is confusing to me as he is behind Skyfall and Road to Perdition. I would go on about how little sense the direction here makes, but I am not sure how. Characters who should be more than they are do nothing. Characters we want to see more of vanish. Decisions and dialogue and performances just fall flat. There’s one line where it’s delivered so badly and with such blandness that Kristin Stewart in Twilight would have looked like a Jeremy Irons or John Malkovich caricature with the amount of emotion displayed. It’s almost like he didn’t care, the writers didn’t care, and the actors didn’t care.

I mean I love Monica Bellucci and Christoph Waltz. They are fantastic in everything I see them in. Lea Seydoux, gorgeous and amazingly expressive and subtle. Dave “Drax the Destroyer” Bautista is the heavy in this one and works. He uses his physical presence to the fullest effect. Yet none of it matters. Craig is going through the motions little else.

What makes it worse? I’ve seen this plot already and it was done better in Skyfall and in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. It was done better, more interestingly, and just….more fun. This movie is boring. The pacing is so wrong. The action sequences are totally uninspired and run too long. Scenes that should be climactic aren’t. The symbolism during two scenes is so intense it’s like Mendes came into the movie theatre and shouted “look. look at the symbolism, embrace it. Embrace how clever I am and your father smells of elderberries.” Yes. It was insulting.

TL;DR?

This may turn out to be an unpopular opinion this weekend, I haven’t checked against those who have seen it already; but…

I actively dislike this movie. I was bored. I was annoyed. I was uninvested. This is a bad movie. It isn’t just a bad Bond movie, but it is a bad movie. I don’t know what went wrong.

I wanted, expected to be meh as the credits rolled, but it turned into a tauntaun scream of irritation as I talked about it with a friend on the drive home.

I cannot recommend this film except to people I dislike.