Darke Reviews | Inferno (2016)

So, I’ve watched all of the Dan Brown movies before watching this. I rather like The Da Vinci Code. I felt the acting was on point, enjoyed the mystery, even if there were a few contrived points. It probably comes from an absolute love and fascination with history. In addition a passion to ask the question, “What if?” These types of stories that are just a touch off the history, just a touch off the real thing that they create a fully enriched and believable mythology are fascinating to me. The mystery presented there was small(ish), and self-contained which allowed it to work as well as it did. The consequences were interesting, but at a specific scale that was relatable to the audience. History and Religion intertwined.

Then came Angels & Demons. Physics and Religion.  The mystery was curious, and while my love for physics and the sciences there is not nearly as strong as my love of history, it was engaging. Then the third act came along and left me feeling generally annoyed. A lot of goodwill for the movie was lost in short order and while again it was well made, it was annoying and too convoluted. While my memory can recall most of DVC pretty accurately, I can maybe recall 50% of Angels & Demons. It was an “ok” after a solid opening.

Now we have Inferno.

The question remains did I get stuck in the Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradiso watching this?

First, let me say I have a early 1900’s print of The Divine Comedy in my library, so again I say History geek. Not that it comes into play much in this screenplay. In short, its a mess.  I cannot speak for Dan Brown’s novel, but David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds) either was faithful and the novel is a mess, attempted to salvage it and failed, or took something good and gave it anxiety. Now, looking at his filmography he tends to work with pretty decent directors and the films themselves generally are well received. But there have been flaws since 2002. Secret Window, then in 2005 War of the Worlds, 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he did work on Angels & Demons as well. I am not sure what is going on here, but…this movie is a bloody mess.

The narrative is hard to follow and the parts that should be interesting are glossed over with such a wide brush I could paint the deck of the USS Enterprise with a single stroke. It takes a normal man who at least in the first movie was relatable. Now he is immediately thrust into the story of a super spy better fitting a Mission Impossible or Bourne movie without the physicality of either.  Every line is said, but they are just small quick beats that serve little point beyond getting to the next in something that is too large and ultimately meaningless.

I’ve been seeing a lot about risk show up in Superhero reviews. There are no risks. The dangers are too big to comprehend, thus you do not care. Ultron is going to destroy the world in some vague plan. Loki destroy the world, but to no particular real end.  The villain of Suicide Squad, destroy the world for reasons in some vague way. The stakes are TOO high. Too much. Constantly too much. This time, the trailers tell us we are at threat from something that will somehow wipe out only half of every living human. I admit my biochemistry and virology game are a bit weak, not really studied in over 20 years aside from a few journals reviewed from time to time and keeping an eye on the newest advances in medical science. That said, the science begs the incredulous here. A pathogen that will only take half the population because reasons? A race against the clock to stop it or the world dies in some vague way. It’s too big to care about or buy into. Unless…..

Unless you have the directorial fortitude to make the 12 Monkeys, Planet of the Apes, or 28 Days Later call; which would surprise everyone. The mystery and the race have no weight because we all know this isn’t going to happen. The first movie it’s about uncovering the Grail, something big but stays personal and the ramifications to the world are mostly philosophical in nature. Angels & Demons….would affect a single religion and how it affects the world, but in this day and age we see that even the faithful will turn against the faith if a message is sent they don’t agree with. It’s still a personal, theological, and philosophical outcome; but also was the first to have a McGuffin level body count on failure. This, from the trailer alone is a 4 billion people body count on failure. A failure you know won’t happen. So why care?

That is not the directors only failing here. The opening credits tried to mimic things like 12 Monkeys or I Am Legend, and other staccato style openings with dialogue that has no context to us at this opening. After that we begin in media res; in the hopes that we will dive right in and be brought along on the confusing journey of Dr. Robert Langdon. The trick to bring us along? Just tell the story. Let Hanks act. You do not need to cut every 2 to 4 seconds. You don’t need to blur the camera or lens flare it or wobble it to make us realize he’s confused. The man can act, at least based on 5 Oscar nominations and 2  wins of the golden statue. We don’t need camera tricks.

I really need to go to the story about Marathon Man, with Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier

During the filming of “Marathon Man,” Dustin Hoffman was supposed to play a man who had been up all night. And method actor that he is, he spent the night before shooting the scene awake. When he arrived on the set, his co-star Laurence Olivier asked why he looked so tired. Hoffman explained his approach. Olivier paused and then said, “Try acting, dear boy . . . It’s much easier.”

Director Ron Howard just out and out fails this movie. Let your bloody actors act. If you want to keep a mystery don’t focus on things that most audiences these days will pick up on. Don’t go to generic footage with bad CGI to show a plague scene. Interspersing so called Hallucinations of a battle just breaks the moment rather than enhances it. I really want to keep railing on the bad directing here, but the list would go on too long and I would need to have spoilers.

The final word on the directing is cutting the shot after no longer than 4 seconds the entire movie is a horrible way to make a film. It was noticeable, in such an excruciating way the guy next to me started counting along with me, even though I was just using my fingers. Just stop. Long takes are Ok.

*grumble* I didn’t expect this review to be this long.

Acting? Hanks sleep walks through the role, trying his best to play someone who has brain trauma. He’s uninvested the entire movie and has absolutely no chemistry with anyone at all, even himself. He doesn’t even manage chemistry with his suit. There are three bright spots however, Omar Sy (Bishop in X-Men Days of Future Past)  as a WHO operative on the trail of the plague. He is in the top three most memorable characters and enjoyable to watch, even if you see it all coming a mile a way since the movie opening (and trailer) spoils him. I finally have a line on Felicity Jones, having only seen her in Amazing Spider Man 2 as Felicia – which as I recall her being a bright spot in the movie. I am now looking very forward to her in a more action oriented role in Rogue One this December.  She does everything she can to elevate the poor material she was given and directed on. I can’t say she always succeeds, but I lay that on Howard not her performance.  Side note, I think she would make a great companion on Dr. Who. The brightest star goes to Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World, Life of Pi). He made me smile and laugh a few times (intentionally!!). It was needed. The man exuded charisma on screen and was so just casual and easy going that I wanted to watch a movie about him. Yet another failing on the material and director that a third string character (not actor) is so much more interesting than your main.

TL;DR?

This marks one of my larger reviews coming in at almost 1500 words at this point.

I didn’t expect to go off on such a rant above, but dear powers that be this movie fails on so many basic levels that I needed to use this gif.

While not an abomination like Die Hard 5 or other movies, this one is just such a remarkable disappointment. It is a dismal failure in my opinion on the career of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks. It isn’t deserving of hate, but instead pity. Sadly that pity means I think it needs the Old Yeller treatment and to be never spoken of again. I come here to not praise this movie, but to bury it.

Should you see it?

I wish I hadn’t. So no.

Will you buy it?

Honestly I am hoping it bombs enough that the studio decides against putting it on BluRay. We should never speak of this again remember?

Is it really THAT bad?

Probably not, but unlike some movies which I can ignore the flaws for a greater narrative, performance, or filming technique there’s not enough good here to allow me to ignore the flaws.

Ok, so let’s talk Dr. Strange!

Let’s…not today. I would not be kind. Look for something on next weeks release soon though.

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Darke Reviews | Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)

There are times I know I am glad I almost never read the books for the movies I watch. Take for instance Jack Reacher, the 2012 movie I consider a near perfect film in its craft. The mystery is solid, well paced, the action while limited is view able and visceral. The acting is top notch and it has one of the best openings to a film probably in the last decade. It probably deserves a review of it’s own and I may have to get to that; actually a little sad I didn’t have one already. But that’s the movie. People RAGED over the casting of Tom Cruise as someone who is by the book supposed to be a mountain of a man. I suppose if I was a fan of the character in that way I might be upset, actually I know I was when Vampire Diaries came out and some of the characters I liked were changed. So I get it, but without that baggage I went in to an unknown property that I didn’t know was based on a book at the time and really enjoyed it.

The question is does the Hollywood mandated sequel meet the bar?

The movie of course is based on the book Never Go Back by Lee Childs, to which I have no idea the accuracy of said material (beyond his size). It was then adapted under my three writer rule by Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. Wenk has shown up in my reviews before as the writer of The Magnificent Seven and the Equalizer. He also was the writer on one of my favourite guilty pleasure vampire movies, Vamp. Herskovitz was a producer on the amazingly underrated The Last Samurai (also with Tom Cruise) and additionally working on the screenplay there. Leaving us with Edward Zwick, who was a writer on The Last Samurai, but also directed this movie. His directorial credits also include little films no one ever heard of such as the Civil War movie “Glory”, a little movie with Brad Pitt called Legends of the Fall, oh yeah and director of Blood Diamond and Last Samurai.

You may wonder why I go into this much detail on their prior works. I find it important as you can begin to see patterns in behaviors, styles of shots, dialogue, lighting, blocking everything. These guys have a pretty good pedigree. Which leaves me wondering what happened here? It has moments where the brilliance wants to shine. Don’t get me wrong, the movie is Ok. Good even, but its like diet low salt popcorn. Ultimately unsatisfying when it could have been so much more. The camera work, including some interestingly used Dutch angles, is ok. The mystery is ok. The…everything is ok. Why? Why is it just this? These guys have the skills to elevate it. Cruise is a producer, Christopher McQuarrie director of the superior first movie is a producer. There’s no excuse.

The story picks up with Jack Reacher (Cruise), former Military Police Major, doing his best A-Team impression drifting in and out of towns and uncovering things that offend his sense of justice and morals. He begins phone flirting with Major Turner (Cobie Smulders) and is intent on meeting her. When he arrives he finds she’s been arrested on espionage charges. He also finds, that someone has filed a paternity suit against him while he’s been doing the drifting thing, and that he may have a 15 year old daughter (Danika Yarosh). She of course is drawn into the plot of murder, betrayal, and corruption as a potential pawn to use against Reacher.

This is just lazy. I mean I went to see an action crime thriller and ended up with what, the most awkward family outing? I mean it was a joy to see Reachers misogyny. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see him be “a mans man” a few times and just try to blunt force trauma his way through social situations. Every beat is neatly telegraphed or otherwise rehashed from the first movie. There’s flat out lazy filmmaking choices to ‘show us’ that Reacher has a good memory. Directorial choices make it so painfully obvious how he’s observing everything around him. It was absolutely aggravating because it should have been better.

The actors are fine, though it appears unlike the first movie someone added leg day back into Tom’s contract. I counted three scenes of him running, maybe 4. I stopped caring. This isn’t to say Cruise did a bad job. Quite the contrary, and despite my earlier protests, he’s fantastic. It is GOOD to see your hero has flaws. It is good to see your hero can be wounded. Even little things like his fingers twitching after the in media res diner scene. That’s what happens as you come down from a fight. It’s again what makes me think there’s a better movie that wanted to come out. Cobie Smulders (Avengers, How I Met Your Mother) is excellent. She matches Tom Cruise quite well and is absolutely believable in her role. I think there’s a long term action star here if she wants it. She did all she could do with the script she was given and more, which puts her a leg up on a lot of other actors as she was able to elevate a few scenes beyond how basic they were. She has good chemistry with Cruise as an actor even if the characters are in conflict. Danika Yarosh (Heroes Reborn) is also good. She’s honestly believable as kid who has been in and out of the system a few times and treads carefully the line of the stupid teenager by both script and directing. I repeat myself, the fact that her performance and character is as good as it is is in direct opposition to the overall emotion I felt at the end.

The fight sequences up to the climactic one are a hair too dependent on cuts and camera motion; a detractor. Just a few seconds longer, just a bit more stability and Just Ok fight sequence would have been good ones. The climactic one was pleasing even if the beat leading up to it was…*sigh* The action was GOOD, if you could see it. The fights were visceral and brutal and seeing the hero hurt was good, but they lacked something – at least until the climax. That one felt Excellent. Again…annoyance at what should and was trying to be better.

TL;DR

I had my hopes up for this one. That may have been a mistake. It was a simple paint by numbers action mover, with a lackluster mystery. Everything was just a few shades, a few beats, or few cuts from being really incredible but just ended up on the right side of mediocre.

I don’t hate the movie, I am just disappointed in it. I am disappointed in the director and writers who I’ve seen enough body of work to know what they are capable of and could have given something richer. I am annoyed by some very lazy choices in film making that are undeserving of what this should have been.

So what would you rate it?

Somewhere between an Ok and a Good. It’s serviceable and has enough moments of entertainment that it is absolutely watchable. I just found that there’s enough detractors that I couldn’t ignore despite wanting to. Audiences will find it ok and a lot of dudes will be going Reacher is a bad ass.

Should you see it?

If you’ve got a spare ten bucks and aren’t seeing the superior film The Accountant? Sure. Just matinee…or with Beer or something. But really go see The Accountant.

Will you buy it?

Eh probably? I just won’t be rushing out to get it or pre order it.

So you didn’t do the review a day after all?

No. Heart wasn’t in it. It’s also tiring. If you watch web reviewers, they generally limit themselves to once a week. It’s harder than it looks to do these and do them well. Giving every review for 31 days the right attention and credit is draining. I might do another run in the future. Maybe random ones. I do owe someone a review of either Dungeons and Dragons or the Core.

Next week, Inferno. Because I hate myself, but mostly so I can get a sense of Felicity Jones before Rogue One.

 

Trailers in the Darke | Logan (2017)

Music for the  trailer is perfect.

Not a fan of the rust colour but I get it.

X-23!!!!! (I hope)

This. Looks good. I want the hype to be real, especially after how good the last Wolverine movie was.

Darke Reviews | Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Yes, this review is incredibly late. Vacation, then robbery, then some scheduling conflicts with my friend who wanted to see it with me. As we go into this review please understand that Burton is on his last legs with me. I have not really enjoyed anything he has done as a writer, director, or producer since 2003’s Big Fish. In fact there are some works of his I absolutely hate with a burning passion that cannot be described in the english language. Dark Shadows, I am looking at you. I won’t even taint my site with a review of that rancid nay putrescent pile of celluloid trash. If that does not make it clear my expectations for this film little will. What I did look forward to was some decent fantasy and the generally engaging Eva Green.

Did I go deeper in or desire to escape the fantasy?

The story is based on a series of YA/Childrens fantasy book by Ransom Riggs, yes that’s his real name as near as I’ve been able to find. Originally crafted to be based on an odd collection of photographs it’s clear the story evolved into so much more. It was adapted to screen by Jane Goldman, who worked on some amazing films such as Stardust, Kick-ass, X:Men First Class & Days of Future Past, and Kingsman. The story is ultimately a fantasy in which our hero Jake (Asa Butterfield) finds out his grandfather’s stories may not have been. He journeys to Wales to uncover the mystery of the stories and is introduced to Miss Peregrine and her home. Of course such stories are nothing without conflict and for that we have The Hollows who well are the bad guys. In usual fashion I have simplified the story so as to avoid spoilers.

There are precisely three directors who could make this film that come to mind. Tim Burton, Matthew Vaughn, and Guillermo Del Toro. You need someone who gets the nature of world building and creating a fantasy world that we can both relate to but is different and one that is tangible. That is the problem so many other directors have, they don’t give us tangible worlds. Think of the first Harry Potter films or the first Lord of the Rings films. The worlds created were high fantasy but very real and touchable.  Most films lose that in a swath of CGI, this retains its realistic physicality even though there is a distinct separation from between our world and the next. For fans of White Wolf Publishing/ Onyx Paths games this reminds me of either a small pocket realm from Mage the Ascension or a lost trod from Changeling the Dreaming. What it did was give me a sense of the surreal, a sense of magic. If you know anything of me, that automatically engages me if done right.

Burton did it right….mostly. Vaughn may have gone too far to the unreal. Del Toro probably would give someone nightmares (*stares at Pans Labrynth*). Burton is a visionary director who for the first time in a long time showed that he can move beyond the tired cliches of his other productions. While there are echoes of his style, this doesn’t quite feel like a Burton film that we’ve become accustomed to. It is beautifully early 20th century and at the same time shows the banality of the modern suburb. The colour palette is normalized for the majority of the film with the colours used to add to the story and are neither too far in either direction of the saturation scale. Where he fails us is tone. The movie is inconsistent. There are moments of “wow that’s intense” with moments that positively eject you from the movie due to tone, dialogue, and music. This is a problem he has had overall and how in the end I know it’s his. It just cannot decide where its lines are and how to stay within them or when not to appropriately.

Asa Butterfield (Enders Game) does sufficiently well in the lead role, mostly getting to stare wide eyed or longingly depending on the moment. The longingly is for Emma Bloom the girl lighter than air, (Ella Purnell) who pretty much has the same queues. I can’t say if they have chemistry or not, but their performances together tend to repeat so much of previous scenes I’ve seen a skipping records with less recycling of a moment. Both do act well, but the direction and or script do them no favours. Eva Green looks and acts fabulous as Miss Peregrine and has a major departure from most of her other works, though I think her time on Penny Dreadful helped a bit. Everyone else in the movie is “Good”. Nothing to write home about, no particular show stealers, but nothing that made me wince either.

I want to talk about production for a moment. The costuming, hair, and make up is stellar. The attention to detail is incredible. It is really well done and I do not believe a dollar of its $110 million budget was wasted. Sad that it’s only made $57 million so far. At best it will top out at $65, ensuring we do not see a sequel unless it screams to life on DVD. The creature designs were incredible and original and I wish I could find who specifically designed them. They were really well done and this person needs more work. As always though, no one has quite figured out creatures and purely CGI in daylight that doesn’t look wrong. It was glass breaking, at times, but otherwise really well done.

TL;DR?

This is an ok movie. It could have and should have been better. I was invested in the world and wasn’t quite sure how it would end and that’s refreshing. As with a lot of YA works, I love the worlds built and most of the characters, but something fell off in the execution that created a sense of being disjointed. Like I know I liked it and I would even say good, but there’s just enough wrong that it keeps the movie from being elevated into me not having to hem and haw on the good factor. Maybe I am being kind because I want to be peculiar, because I want to escape into this world so much. Maybe they just did it right.

If this is the Burton we are getting in the future, I am glad. He still needs to fix his tonal shifting and pick a theme, but this felt good. This felt original and new from him. More please. You are better than you have been, and this could be better. Maybe it was stretching off old muscles, but you did good here. On your next do more and we will all be happy.

Should you see it?

If you enjoy fantasy yes. It has some pacing issues but otherwise you will be fine. I was successfully invested and that makes it worth a recommendations.  Just measure your expectations.

Will you buy it on BluRay?

Without a doubt.

What Next?

Haven’t quite decided if my week will allow me to see The Girl on the Train, but at a minimum you are getting the next Jack Reacher film next week. I hope it’s as entertaining as it’s predecessor.

Darke Reviews | The Accountant (2016)

Miss me? I know I know, just been a helluva week I would rather forget since returning from the vacation. I wish I could forget things, but my memory says no to that. I came across a trailer for this a few weeks ago, and this largely seems to be slipping under a lot of peoples radars.

“I’m going to see the Accountant.”

“Didn’t you do your own taxes?”

*heavy sigh*

It has a pretty tight cast, an intriguing trailer, and what by appearances seems to be a ‘semi-positive’ take on Autism.

But how was it?

The script, written by Bill Dubuque (The Judge), follows a few interlacing threads most of which center on The Accountant (Affleck) and his ties to various organized crime as well as his skills in reviewing and cooking books for his clients, both legitimate and illegitimate. I would classify this as a thriller-action in that particular order, as the action pieces are few and far between and used to move the story forward as the mysteries of the movie and motivations of each of the characters unravels for the audience. The story itself is original, with beats recycled from a dozen other movies; but done so in a way that tells something I haven’t quite seen but is familiar and relatable.  If anything is a miracle here, Dubuque made filing taxes and reviewing spreadsheets look and sound amazingly interesting. Truth be told, forensic accounting *is* amazingly interesting, but this is from a girl who loves spending her days trying to uncover what’s actually happening in scenarios she’s presented.

Granted to take the otherwise solid material and make it pop takes a decent director, which we have Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle). He does a rather good job with alternating between medium length stationary cameras and moving them with the on screen motion. The work there kept the movie interesting as the story unfolds for us as did his direction for the actors. Each performance felt particularly earnest, with one exception which wasn’t quite adding up with the others, but was still good acting. I was not a fan of the diluted palette of the film as it didn’t seem to serve a purpose to me other than washing out the colours of the overall work. Going back to the subject of camera work the “wobbly cam” while not as painful as full on shaky cam was a distinct departure from otherwise good camera work and distinctly noticeable when used. I feel he was inspired by the amazingly shot John Wick for a lot of what was executed here.

Acting wise Affleck turned out a good performance, but I have to lean to my friends who are on the spectrum or have children on the spectrum to tell me if it was accurate. They seemed to treat it well, but that isn’t for me to judge. Anna Kendrick as forensic accountant Dana Cummings is charming as usual and is actually a really rich character; but even the hint of setting her up as a romantic interest for Affleck is a touch annoying. Yes, in real life people with 13 year age differences get together all the time and its fine. In movies, in Hollywood, they generally refuse to cast actresses near the leads age or older for romance….for reasons. No good reasons, just reasons. Again the fault here isn’t on the actors who both do really well, just the nudge in the direction of romance didn’t need to be there for this to work.

J.K. Simmons is not demanding pictures of Spiderman here, but instead a member of the treasury department looking for the Accountant for his own mysterious reasons. Aided by a member of his division, played by Cynthia Addai Robinson (Amanda Waller from Arrow) they try to piece together who he is and what he is. Both performances and characters were everything I needed from them and were absolutely engaging. We also have the addition of Jon Bernthal (Netflix Punisher, The Walking Dead) as a contractors whose job intersects with the accountant; who does just as well and made me smile with his delivery and just general character performance.

TL;DR

This is the Batman movie we deserve. Seriously. The Accountant must be detective and bad ass. I found myself really enjoying the film end to end with only a few sighs at some of the beats.

As I stated before, I can’t speak on the treatment of autism within the narrative, but from what I do know it seems to be treated respectfully. Yes, its a plot device to a point but isn’t the sum of the parts. The dialogue describing the condition late in the film seems to be on par with what I have heard from more progressive medical experts. I really would like some of my friends out there who do have  a point of view to share it if they see this.

Overall, this is a really good movie with only a few flaws to it, but none so grievous as to say no or reduce my enjoyment. It does have less action than you might think, but it has a really good paced structure to it and I didn’t notice the time passing.

Should you see it?

If you like thrillers or thriller action? Yes. Ben Affleck – yes. Honestly, its just a solid movie that absolutely met expectations (which I thought would be good/interesting) and I think it needs some credit.

Will you buy it on BluRay?

Yep. It has some good rewatch value.

Any other reviews coming?

I should be seeing Ms Peregrine this weekend, possibly Little Sister and Girl on the Train, but Ms Peregrine to be sure.

What about Dr. Strange in November?

There’s a whole post coming on that one.