Darke Reviews | Avengers – Infinity War (2018)

SPOILER FREE – DUH

Let’s face it folks. This is the most useless movie review in history. You already know you are going to see it regardless of what I say.

Avengers Infinity War is *the* movie of the year that everyone wants to see. Few expected Black Panther to be the hit that it was (we really should have though), Solo is getting a mediocre response, do not get me started on Jurassic World, and literally everything else is sequels which while there are some fans don’t have over a decade of build up leading to their release. This is something no one has tried before at this scale and with good reason. It seems a Herculean effort, the impossible task to try to take multiple group and single character stories that largely operate on their own and put them into a single picture against a single threat.

Yet here we are Marvel has tried it. They wisely put Joe and Anthony Russo in the directors chair after the both critical and audience success of Winter Soldier and Civil War. The writers, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely were also behind those two stories as well, plus The First Avenger. Winter Soldier, still easily in my top five Marvel films is an excellent story that just happens to have super heroes in it. Civil War, also is a strong story with a bigger hero presence – even if I personally have significant issues with some of the characters – the story cannot be denied and it’s solid film making. This was a good play on Marvels part and yes, this too is a well made film; but…

It has flaws for me.

Lots of them; but because I want my readers to enjoy the movie for its merits let me answer some questions that as always contain no spoilers.

Do they successfully merge multiple franchises?

Actually yes. This is a very very busy movie with a ridiculous number of locations, characters, and beats to it. It never quite feels too rushed or too slow , even if it gets close a few times.

Do they do justice to each of the characters as we’ve grown to understand them?

Honestly yes. Everyone gets a good moment of their own that sticks to the core of who and what they have been established to be. Everyone you can imagine gets an appearance and it did make me smile to see a few of them too; yet at the same time I think they spend time with all the wrong characters. The ones who get the most focus are the ones I care about least.

How is Thanos?

Josh Brolin absolutely brings it and anything else verges into spoiler territory so you’ll have to chat with me in the comments section on him. He Looks Great! He is a SOLID Villain. I am happy to see him.

Is there anything else you can share that doesn’t even hint at a spoiler?

There’s not a lot I *can* say about it. The money sunk into this movie is on screen with absolutely nothing wasted. The visuals are surprisingly solid with the raw amount of CG on screen at any given time; and show just how far they are pushing the technology.  The fights left me something to be desired as they are very busy which detracts from most of them unfortunately as I couldn’t really see who was who and there were too many cuts to other places.

TL;DR

I hope you truly enjoy this movie. I really didn’t. It is in the solid middle for me on the Marvel films. I don’t actually *hate* it in any way – which is an important distinction from things like Age of Ultron or Iron Man 3. I just don’t have any emotional connection to it whatsoever and that is why it fails for me.

The ultimate telling thing to me is that the audience in my showing was stone quiet even after the credits rolled. Not a gasp, not a tear, not an applause. Just quiet. So maybe I am not the only one? There *are* good things to it, I covered some above. There are others that are cool too, but they are moments in a whole cloth that just doesn’t do it for me. They aren’t enough to save it even if in those moments it engaged me like nothing else in the film did.

I hope you enjoy The Infinity War and it lives up to every expectation you have.

 

 

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Darke Reviews | Rampage (2018)

The video game movie. A long Hollywood tradition of pain and misery, with rare gems rising to the top of a pile of well something. Much like I opened with on Tomb Raider a few weeks ago there are video game movies that don’t suck; that said they usually have a story to them. There are only a few movies based on games started in the Arcade first; and we don’t talk about Double Dragon in polite company.

Yes – thats The Chairman on the right…

The hair. The eyebrow. It’s too much dahling.

So here we have Rampage. Someone, somewhere thought lets take the game of three mutated humans turned monsters beating up Illinois cities and turn it into a major motion picture event. Then someone else said “Ok. Here’s $50 million dollars.” I think I am in the wrong line of work some days when I point stuff like that out.

So should you insert a coin to start?

The movie has a total of four writing credits thus invoking my Rule of 3 for writers rooms. The story was by Ryan Engle who disappointed me with The Commuter and Non-Stop for Liam Neeson. Engle also gets a screenplay credit with three other men. Carlton Cuse (San Andreas, Brisco County Jr., Colony), Ryan J Condal (Colony,  Hercules), and Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip).  With this combined pedigree and multiple writers on a concept such as Rampage, this movie should be an absolute train wreck with wildly shifting tones, weirdly spliced scenes, and cringe inducing dialogue; and somehow its not.

Rather than humans who mutate into the monsters, they have animals mutate into significantly larger aggressive hybrid animals. The humans should be and largely are second fiddle to the creature carnage the movie brings. The dialogue is not much, but a few of the lines really work and will make you laugh – especially with some of the delivery. This is not a complex movie here and the concepts are simple and the writers played into those strengths to their benefit with only a handful of human driven moments that do “ok”. The real surprise was the fact the movie addressed consequence for actions (karmic and otherwise) a few times and left me and my partner for the night rather pleased.

Now the humans themselves are, ok its the Rock, you just want to see the Rock. It’s all good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is charismatic as ever here, knows full well the movie he is in and delivers everything the trailer promised you and more. Naomi Harris does well with her role as a Doctor who had her hand in the creation of the mutagen and she  holds her own with him. The final standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( Supernatural, The Walking Dead) who also knows what sort of movie he is in and goes for the most fun, hammiest – yet entirely in world and in character – performance he could. He worried us at first, then when they let him cut loose he just is all kinds of fun.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) clearly has a love for mid and late 80’s action movies. He shoots sequences that are nothing short of absurd but played straight, and straight sequences with a sense of humor. There’s an early scene (non spoiler dont worry) where a guy is handed three weapons in the span of a minute walk from his car to a chopper as if its nothing, all the while some action hero music from Predator or Commando plays in the background. If you pick up on it – you’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of it, if you don’t you will be rolling your eyes at just how close to over the top it is.

This of course brings us to our creatures, Lizzie, Ralph and George. They look GOOD. Yes, you know they are CG, but the effects team blended them into the real world rather well. Your brain tells you this is computer, but it is interacting with its environment like its there effectively. The people in that environment look part of the scene (most of the time) as well. Its good use of colour correction where they brought up saturation levels just right.  While were on the topic of technicals, the action is magnificently glorious and easy to follow. There sound designers deserve a raise as during loud sequences you can often hear someone in the background saying something entertaining. You will find plenty of game easter eggs as well to a pleasing degree.

TL:DR?

Rampage gave me everything I wanted and a good bit more. This is the grab the popcorn and a drink of choice, sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half. There’s not much more to say about it – it is just sorta fun and kept the promises the trailers made.

So should I see it?

Yeah. It’s a good time at any price. I would be curious how DBox or XD sound plays with it, I think they’d enhance the experience.

Will you see it again?

Being honest with myself, probably not in theatres, but before you ask yes I am going to buy it.

So the video game movie is good?

Yes, because it doesn’t try to rise above its overly silly concept but also doesn’t deride it either. It embraces it and all its merits and flaws and runs with it with abandon that should be cherished. It’s not quality cinema folks. Some movies can just be there to purely entertain and this does that in spades.

If you have the time and inclination go on a Rampage this weekend.

 

Editorials in the Darke | The DC Animated Universe

I used to be a huge defender of the DC Animated Universe movies. They have, had, put out some of the most consistent quality superhero stories that even dwarfed the Marvel movies for emotional impact with a handful of them.

I’ve been watching some clips from their new Suicide Squad Hell to Pay movie and I’m done.

I forgave them for the Killing Joke and the Batgirl subplot. I could see it while others found this the absolute straw for the back of the camel.

I didn’t initially notice the treatment of Zatanna in Justice League Dark. A friend pointed it out and I can’t unsee it.

Terra in Teen Titans Judas Contract was uncomfortable to watch with DeathStroke. Especially the one scene in which she, ostensibly a teenager, in a babydoll nightgown and overdone makeup tries to seduce Slade and he plays into it.. Don’t give me BS about something similar happened in the comics. Comics written 20+ years ago – you change and alter a dozen other things. This could have and should have been dropped.

Batman and Harley Quinn was just absolutely so tone deaf and male gazey to make me nauseous and thankful that the credits rolled quickly on that one.

Gotham by Gaslight. Again – yay …treatment of women. Especially with Ivy getting butchered in the opening. Why? Sure you are putting a spotlight on the misogyny but you aren’t actually addressing it. You are using a HEROIC character to perpetrate it.

Now with the clips I am seeing from Hell to Pay. I am done.

The DCAU used to be the place to go because the DCEU was a dumpster fire. The fire has spread and I am rethinking a lot of Bruce Timm, Sam Register, Sam Liu, and James Tucker and the rest crew over there.

I cannot stand the teenage boys club it is now. The Zack Snyderish male gaze shots and the treatment of female characters.

The goodwill and my future dollars are gone. It’s really sad since there used to be such quality stories coming out of that place like Under the Red Hood, Assault on Arkham, The Dark Knight Returns, and others.

In a time of #MeToo and Harvey Weinsteins, we don’t need people trying to hold onto their toys. We need our storytellers to giving us better.

Comics always were and have been a place to give us hope, or show us the dark to make the light more important. To be a place to address systemic issues like racism or classcism. Now is an opportunity to talk about sexism.

The DCAU now seems content to be stuck in the 90s, stomping its feet refusing to grow up when it was for a shining moment showing a different path. That moment is gone.

Screw you DC.

Darke Reviews | A Quiet Place (2018)

I have to admit from the initial trailers I’ve been excited for this movie. John Krasinski directing isn’t what did it, I have never watched, nor am likely to watch an episode of The Office. I don’t think I’ve watched a single thing he’s starred in. Emily Blunt is always a gift in film and to be fair is a draw here. No, what got me was the premise. A horror movie with a creature that attacks based on certain types of noise and sound. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Sure the Descent has creatures that *should* hunt that way, and The Cave has creatures that use echo location, but none of them explored fully a creature above ground that stalks and kills its prey if it makes noise. I specify above ground because yes, the Tremors films “Graboids” do hunt by sound. The set up here is different with a clear intent to invoke raw tension in the viewer.

I have a mouth and should I scream?

Yeah ok not my best lead in question pun, I just wanted to get to writing on this. Feel free to suggest better ones in the comments on Facebook. The movie was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. The two have been collaborating together for well over a decade on various shorts and a single TV movie with this being their first theatrical feature film together.  Krasinski nabs a screenplay credit for any changes he made on set while directing. As I am not familiar with any of the pairs prior works, I can’t comment like usual on trends or patterns in story. What I can say is they provided us something that horror does better than almost any other genre; a tight focused character piece. The trailers tell you all you need. We have fast moving creatures that hunt day or night at the slightest of loud noises. They apparently are very strong and due to the near post apocalyptic feel the movie sets up very difficult to kill.

Can you imagine living in a world where you can’t speak to anyone around you? It’s entirely possible for me to go from the end of a work day on a Friday to the Monday morning without uttering a word or hearing another human voice. It happens quite a bit. I know how that leaves me on that morning and I cannot fully appreciate or realize what going days, weeks, months, or even years would be like. What does it mean to survive like that? With a family? With children? Is it even really living? The movie probes into these topics just enough with the charming backdrop of an upstate New York farm and monsters waiting for the kill.

I often pick on films for introducing concepts and not exploring them fully, if at all. This one introduces several fascinating concepts in horror and humanity and delves just deep enough under the skin to leave you thinking about it as the tension rises. Tension being something Krasinski as a director did extraordinarily well. Much as I tear into films that don’t have good rises and falls of tension, this one is like watching someone inflate a balloon. You see it getting bigger and bigger and you can’t be sure if it’s going to pop. Every now and then, a little air is let out letting you breathe for a moment, but then they get right back to it. It works.

With a small cast of four people everyone has to be on their A game to sell the drama underlying the horror. Blunt and Krasinski do their parts well, but with Emily this is to be expected and it’s clear John has talent to keep up the game while also being behind the camera. Noah Jupe, does well enough as the pre/early teenage son Marcus, who is trying to understand his place in the family and the world. Millicent Simmonds, who plays the eldest daughter Regan who is deaf, does a great job getting both the angry and slightly rebellious teenager while still respecting the rules of the movie.

There is also one other critical factor to this childs role in the movie – she too is deaf. More and more movies are being called to the carpet – rightfully so – for casting abled individuals in character roles that are disabled. It’s takes away an opportunity for someone who is capable of performing a role and giving it to an able bodied person. It’s worth noting that this also comes up for those who are Queer when straight people are cast in roles that are explicitly queer. While it shouldn’t *have* to be praised for this, the casting and production of the movie *does* deserve praise for casting Millicent as a character who is deaf. I keep saying representation matters and this is yet again an opportunity that was taken to prove it. Well done movie. Well done.

From a technical perspective the production does a lot very right. It feels odd to praise a movie based on silence for its sound design but I must. There is an ingenuity at play here with the right sounds at the right times, at the right volumes. It amplified everything in the theatre. A creak of a chair. Someone shifting in the seats three rows back. This made it so when the sounds got loud you really appreciated all there was to it. The editing was fantastic with solid camera work to support it. Then of course comes the creature design. I liked it. That’s all I am saying.

TL;DR?

I really enjoyed this movie. It was good tension ratcheting horror with the right pay offs at the right times. It delivered on all it promised me and I can earnestly recommend this film to people. If Krasinski decides to keep himself behind the camera in future projects we have a good director joining the fray.  I hope we get more of Millie in future films as well. She’s already declared that she wants to continue acting and advocating for the deaf community and we should support her. I really hope Hollywood does.

So I should see it then?

Yes. If you were interested, slightly interested, at all curious – yes. D-Box seating isn’t needed. It didn’t add much that I noticed to the experience.

Would you see it again?

Probably. If someone local wants to go.

Buying it then?

No question

You don’t praise horror movies this much – whats the deal?

Because most horror doesn’t try. It relies on too many old tropes or characters you really can’t wait to see die. This does none of those things and explores an idea we haven’t seen. Don’t tell me there is nothing original left and then ignore this movie.

Last thoughts?

#RepresentationMatters