Darke Reviews – The VVitch (2016)

I won’t lie, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. The trailer captured my interest and had my attention in it’s two minutes and thirty one seconds.  That was in August of last year. half a year later the movie gets a wide release and we finally get it in Tucson. Of course the review is SPOILER FREE!!!

My original Facebook post said this:

Trailers in the Darke – The Witch (2016)

Solid cast. Good atmosphere. A few jump scares. Looks to have good tension.

I am on board.
https://www.facebook.com/TheWitchMov

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQXmlf3Sefg

Now….was I right? Did it live up to my expectations?

Written and directed by Robert Eggers in his first theatrical full feature film appearance. Eggers has worked across the behind the camera in Art Direction, Costume Design, Production Design, and Art departments prior. This explains much of how he was able to capture and evoke something very disturbingly primal in the film. He admits that much of the dialogue and plot come from journals, folk tales, and myths of early colonial New England. It felt it. I heard dialogue choices that felt appropriate, I heard people talking like people…but from another era.  I find myself hard pressed to think of another film in this genre and era that felt right…and oh so wrong at the same time. His script pulls no real punches and should it be found accurate, I would say this made me believe an aspect, a dark one at that, of Puritan colonial life could have looked like this. That a story such as this could inspire black emotions and torment, even if it was for private gain alone.

That I think is what struck me most in the plot and script. I can see all of the beats of a movie, but at the same time, I see a spark. I see that he touches on emotions and beliefs in the microcosm of this family that if explored wider could lead to a Salem, or worse Auto-da-fe. It was bizarrely natural and unnatural at the same time. The time is inferred, the place you only know as “The commonwealth”, leaving much to the imagination but also with acknowledgement that it’s irrelevant for the story. I was reminded of a conversation earlier this week where I mentioned I hated the Scarlet Letter in school, not just because I was forced to read it, but because I hated that Hester conformed to societal norms. This movie feels like the story I wanted to read. What happens when you take a devout family from their home, not once but twice, and force them apart from society? It was a fascinating, if not predictable, study.

Three of the main characters must carry the brunt of the work of the film. Ralph Ineson (a character actor from Game of Thrones, and many other films in sci fi and fantasy) and Kate Dickie (Lysa Arryn from Game of Thrones) are the parents who must ride a certain balance between fanaticism, family, and despair. They do so quite well and strike the balance better than most “significant” actors would. I find their performance more passioned, more honest, and in times more raw than many critical actors performances in similar roles. As the eldest daughter, Anya Taylor-Joy gets the brunt of the work and watching her performance as her character grows through the film kept me in my seat. I would like to see more of what she can offer Hollywood based on the performance here.

From a technical perspective, the movie is as near as I could tell 100% practical. The house, the farm, everything was practical. This goes a long long way when doing a supernatural suspense and horror film to give you the right feelings and evoke the proper tension as it’s all in camera for you. That of course leads to one of the few downfalls of the movie – it is the living definition of slow burn. The burn pays off, but watching the build up, watching the tension keep getting ratcheted higher took effort, and sadly a lot of the time. The music was a little too much sometimes reminding me a touch of Dark Knight with the strained violins.  The camera work on the other hand is on point with great usage of frames for the scenes telling you what you need to know rather than dialogue.

TL;DR?

I find myself surprised. Not at the quality, but that the film was mostly American made. It feels more like a project I would see come out of Spain, Paris, or German cinema. It’s a tight film and feels like Eggers worked for it and simultaneously had clear vision of what he wanted and was passionate about it. I am really happy with this movie. I found myself liking this movie more as I wrote the review. That’s rare!

Do I consider it scary though? No. Suspenseful – yes! It’s also not scary in the traditional sense we’re used to. The jump scares, the gore, that kind of horror? It’s not the only kind. This is a more real and all too relatable kind of horror. It is unsettling at times.

Do I think it worthy of the critical acclaim? Absolutely.

Is Jess going to buy it? YES!

Should you see it?

 If you need something in this supernatural suspense genre, you should watch it. Consider this a superior counter offering to another Conjuring or Insidious. We all complain about not enough original coming out of Hollywood, well here you go. It’s original. It’s not based on a book, a remake, real events, etc etc etc… this is new. Celebrate it.

If this is your genre – please go see this and tell Hollywood we want more! I might go see it again just for that alone.

 

 

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Darke Reviews | Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool: The Apology. No..no. Not quite right. Deadpool: Forgive us for Wolverine Origins, mmm closer. Captain Deadpool, the amazing man in a red suit. Too long. I guess we stick with Deadpool. Oh hey readers, it’s me again and I am bringing you the review many of you geeks have been waiting for. Zoolander 2. Kidding. I would need to be on every narcotic known to man, possibly dead, and definitely kidnapped while wrapped in barbed wire to see that. No, this is the review for Deadpool. The first R Rated film from the superhero comic verse based on a major character/comic line.

First thing before I talk about it. This is not a movie for kids. Do not take the kids.

Do not take the kids.

Ok…

So should you go see it without the kids?

Ryan Reynolds himself has a production credit on this. That means he ponied up investment money to get it made. It was made because fans demanded it, literally. What could go wrong with a fan based product? That’s a laundry list for another time. This time though we have Tim Miller at the helm in his directorial debut. He’s a new guy true, but he has worked in the industry in the visual effects departments on such work as Hellgate: London (beautiful trailers), Mass Effect 2 (*happy sigh*), and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  These are good things as they show an eye for motion and framing, with a good cast a director like this can go well. A script helps as well and for that we have Paul Wernick (Zombieland), and Rhett Reese (also Zombieland). These two clearly must be fans of the comic or have been forced to read it until their minds border on Lovecraftian gibbering. They really seemed to capture the essence of Deadpool. This is more than the slapstick dialogue and 4th wall breaking, but knowing how to write scenes in which this is appropriate and other scenes that still fit with the character to give you a break from the rollercoaster.

So we have a new director, writers with one hilarious hit, but what about actors? Ryan Reynolds was genetically engineered to play Deadpool. Period. This can broach no argument in any conversation ever. Just as Patrick Stewart was Charles Xavier a full decade before X-Men was thought about seriously as a movie, Reynolds is the Merc with the Mouth. There are people who know this to be true and people who are wrong. Nothing is amiss in his performance, including mocking himself as the actor. A good hero(?) needs a good villain. The movie went to Transporter Refueled’s Ed Skrein and….he is ok. You will forget him or any of his lines a few minutes after the movie.  Brianna Hildebrand, T.J. Miller, and Gina Carano all do well and actually were kinda fun in their varied performances. Of course we must talk about Morena Baccarin and how much chemistry I feel she had with Reynolds. There’s something about this woman and men named Reynolds…clearly. Seriously though she does well enough and plays perfectly to the role and the film leading to a few memorable scenes.

From a tech perspective, the makeup is good. The fights are over the top, a little hard to see a times, but generally worth it. Colossus is actually one of the best iterations of him to date visually. Some may complain about the CG on him, but he’s a 9 foot tall walking mountain of organic steel – they haven’t done a make up job yet that can make that work. Just about everything else in the production is rather solid, you can tell they had a bit of a budget but spent it wisely.

TL;DR?

It’s Deadpool, I am only confirming that you should see it (without the kids). There’s enough foul language, sexual innuendo, blood, and nakedness in the film to make an 80’s movie question itself. Actually, that is a pretty good summation. This is an 80’s movie done with the budget and production values of 2016.

Did I enjoy it? I laughed from the opening credits until the credits rolled.

Will I see it again? Yes. Sunday as a matter of fact. It’s Gal-entines day.

Will I buy it? Without a doubt!

Thank you Ryan Reynolds. Thank you Hollywood for taking this chance. My audience applauded when the credits rolled. That doesn’t happen that often. Just…don’t try to do it too often ok?

Go see Deadpool if you were interested folks. It’s worth it.

Darke Reviews | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

2nd review of the year. Only took a few weeks for the cinematic ball to get rolling to things I want to see. Per the usual rules, I have not read the book here – either of them. Either being Jane Austens original Pride and Prejudice or Seth Grahame-Smith’s zombie “cover” of her material. Now SGS is known to us thanks to the train wreck that was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and I was thankful to not see his name in the writing or directors credit. He may write a good novel, but not so much on the film material. Unsurprisingly my tastes do not go for the period or romantic dramatic style film, so Austen and her body of work is and shall remain a mystery to me for some time. I did, however, watch Pride and Prejudice (2005 Kiera Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen) a few weeks ago when a friend was over and put it on while I was playing Fallout. I admit. I enjoyed it far more than I ever anticipated. It was shot so remarkably well, music, acting, everything top notch. I have absolutely no idea how that director gave us last years Pan.

So how was this movie?

Well, we’ve covered who wrote the book, who added zombies to the book, and who shouldn’t touch it as a movie. The man who did is named Burr Steers, as both screenplay credit and director. Not familiar with the name? Don’t expect you to be with two Zac Efron movies, no one I know of saw to his credit, 17 again and Charlie St. Cloud. Having watched the 2005 film adaptation made me judge what I saw far less harshly than I would. The dialogue was stilted, the actors stiff as a corpse, and the pacing was beyond awkward. Just like the source material. Honestly, the ability to match parallels between the last adaptation of the real source material and this one really allowed me to acknowledge the designs in this movie which would be painful otherwise were purely intentional. Changes must be made to incorporate zombies into the structure and with that a new world history which is glossed over nicely; but all in all the film does a remarkable job of being in step with the materials previously published. A feat that must be given credit to Seth Grahame-Smith and Steers himself.

From an actors point of view, Lily James shines. I thought she was a saving grace in Cinderella and I can tell now the critique there squarely falls on the production. The movie lives and breathes around her performance; she is as capable of the romance, the language, and action simultaneously. She does quite a bit with her eyes, which is a requirement for the role of Elizabeth Bennet. She was absolutely believable for both her battle prowess and will. I really want her to have a long and distinguished career in good movies; though her next film has Jai Courtney so I worry there. Sam Riley, Diaval from Maleficent, whom I loved there and love here. What is it with the leads in this film being the standouts in previous Disney live-action adaptations?  His Mister…sorry Colonel Darcy, is engaging despite the required stiffness. He too does a lot with subtle expressions that are all too intentional and very well delivered. Two other roles are also handled well by Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as Mr. Bingley and Jack Huston (George Wickham); both of whom I could deal with more of.

Rounding out the cast in supporting roles are some true heavies who have minor, but important roles, such as The Doctor (Matt Smith) as Parson Collins, and two Game of Thrones alumni in Charles Dance and Lena Headey. Dance gets to be nice this time as Mister Bennet, while Heady continues to be one of the scariest people on screen as Lady Catherine deBourgh. All three castings were absolutely perfect and all three easily let you know THEY were on screen in just the right ways.

Costuming was solid, a little too much emphasis on being sexy a couple of times, but overall beautiful as the weapons being carried. Sets were good, but I could tell when the budget was thin as some shots that were supposed to be different looked the same just from another angle; but I could be wrong. The fight choreography was good and gave us a scene that in my mind rivals the Zorro fight between Banderas and Zeta-Jones. A little more steady cam would have been nice. Some more creativity in the shots would have been nice beyond the opening sequence. Transitions were handled really well. The make up effects were also top notch. There’s a lot of trainees in the credits, but the film really was one of the better looking zombie films I’ve seen.

TL;DR?

For a movie that has been in production hell and switched directors multiple times; this is actually pretty good. The more I talk about it the more I find myself liking it and overlooking its flaws – which are there. It isn’t risky. It isn’t particularly daring with a PG-13 rating, but despite that…it’s watchable.

That said, this is a Zombie movie for fans of Pride and Prejudice. This is not necessarily a zombie movie for someone who hates P&P or otherwise can’t stand a more british drama style pacing. If you DO like Downton Abbey or other British drama’s and also like Zombies this may be right up your alley.

It wasn’t particularly scary or funny, but it was entertaining. I enjoyed myself and really isn’t that what you are supposed to do at the movies?