Darke Reviews | Upgrade (2018)

I was debating whether or not to see this due to its ableist look and literally basing all the action off of that and a woman in a fridge moment. I am not one to say if it is or isn’t for sure and I leave that to people in a better place to judge, but if you were to ask me? Yeah it is. How so?

The plot is summed up as thus. The story takes place in some not too distant future where technology is at once familiar and not and is fully integrated into most peoples lives. You can see a tenth generation Alexa, third generation self driving cars, police drones that patrol the sky, and of course everyone is tagged to be able to be detected by the drones (of course there’s a way around that too). A working class mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) who is some form of executive for a cybernetic company run afoul of some bad people aiming to do bad things. They kill Asha and leave Grey a quadriplegic who has no choice but to watch her die inches from his fingers.  Several months later after he’s released from the hospital, and an appropriately long sequence showing what his life is like this, he begins to sink into a depression. This of course is when one of his former clients makes him an offer he can’t refuse – a chip that can be inserted into his body that would take over for the interrupt from brain to spine. With the computer chips help, that conveniently comes with an AI named STEM (Simon Maiden), Grey goes on the hunt for those who killed his wife.

There we go, everything from the trailer summed up and not a single spoiler, yet I still covered the entire setup for the movie. It cannot be denied that the movie leads in with a women in fridge moment, but so does something like The Crow. It’s worth bringing that film up since at the core there’s an element of origin stories there brought to bear, and yes, this pales in comparison to that one. But we have a mechanic and his female companion who come to cross a group of bad guys who do something horrific to both; which leads to the man coming back from the brink of death to avenge her. Pretty familiar?

As for the trope of women in fridges. Is the trope tired? Yeah, its why it is generally looked down on and writers (looking at Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick here) don’t get a by for saying they don’t know about it. Now I don’t know if Leigh Whannel the writer and director of Upgrade knows of it. After writing SAW way back in 2004 and the decade and half of films and media that have followed I can’t say for sure.  I can say in my opinion (though correct me otherwise readers) having someone else die to cause him pain is somehow psychologically less Ableist as its not the grief of his own situation that drives him but the loss of wife. Could it have been a child (see Crow 2), parents – maybe? Dog…no. John Wick did that and you are no John Wick.

So the story is problematic perhaps on a few levels. The acting is nothing really to write home about. The actors are fine, but don’t really stand out. What does stand out is the fact you can tell this was made by Blumhouse. They don’t shy away from visceral imagery when it suits the purpose of the camera. There were multiple reactions in my showing to some of the character ends.  The world the characters live in is an interesting mix of familiar and not as I mentioned before; but doesn’t quite deliver on any single aspect of it. Players of Shadowrun and Cyberpunk who see this will simply want a real SR or CB movie to come  and after Bright and Altered Carbon and now this – we need one. Badly. With someone like Fuqua at the helm, but that’s a conversation for a different post.

TL;DR?

Upgrade was a sufficient enough action film. It is far more Science Action than Science Fiction as it has no real message and the technologies presented don’t feel too unreasonable within the next 50 years. The action scenes are shot well and aren’t quite like anything we’ve seen before due to the jerky motions required for the narrative. I was entertained for its very 80’s ninety-five minute running time as was the rest of the audience.

Should I see it?

It’s too quick to ever become boring and doesn’t really suffer any editorial flaws, but as discussed above there are some problematic elements to its architecture that shouldn’t be ignored. That said if you don’t care about such things you won’t hate the thing; those who do I can say just give it a pass.

If you do plan to see it – matinee only.

Would you see it again?

In theatres? No.

Buying it then?

Undecided. It has some cool tech and sci fi elements I would use for gaming, but I don’t know if its worth the $20 for that. Maybe…ask again in September when it’s released for the home.

Not a lot of praise for this. It sounds kinda meh?

I *was* entertained and there’s some stuff worth talking about, but I can’t without spoilers. It’s above a Meh but just barely into the good category. I can tell it was shot on a tight budget and they were judicious with it so points there…I guess?

What’s next?

Well next Thursday I am travelling for work so there may not be a review; I’ll have a choice between Hotel Artemis or Ocean’s 8 if I do see something. I would probably pick Artemis and wait til the week to see 8 with some friends.

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Darke Reviews | Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Continuing to try the new format, which is to say going to get to the point early and go into detail in a bit.

I think I am going to be in the minority again like I was with Avengers: Infinity War, except this time it’s reverse. I really found myself enjoying this movie. It felt like the space fantasy I wanted to see with a heist movie thrown in as the plot. I don’t think there’s any real character growth to be had, but sometimes that isn’t the point. It’s sometimes worth it to see the character learning the tricks of the trade even if his core nature never really changes or evolves. Seriously, its ok from time to time to use this as a narrative trick and overall they were successful here with Solo.

I know a lot of people were concerned that Alden Ehrenreich would be directed to emulate Harrison Ford and I did not find that to be true. He was directed to be his usual charming self, while playing Han Solo. Some folks may think I am biased because I really liked the kid in Beautiful Creatures, and that may be true, but it doesn’t make it less true that I felt I was seeing a young Han Solo. He came across as the hustler always just in over his head but with the skills to get himself out of it, but still always trying to play an angle. Taking the movies as the only source for him, this is part of his essential nature and they delivered on that.

Folks are already praising Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and the praise is worthy. When you consider there’s maybe a total of 30 minutes between two films with the character of Lando they don’t have a lot to work with to deliver a younger version of the man you meet on Bespin in Empire Strikes back. Glover, unsurprisingly, delivers enough charm to light the screen for some of the weaker performances in the movie – which thankfully there aren’t many. Sadly, Emilia Clarke is one of them. The more I watch of her outside of Game of Thrones the more I find her range limited. This isn’t to say she’s bad in the film, but against Ehrenreich and Glover she’s a shadow. Woody Harrelson continues to enjoy the resurgence of his career since Hunger Games and I don’t mind one bit, he fit this world and melded with it like any smuggler I would see from the Star Wars games. Paul Bettany gets to chew some scenery and this is always a pleasing thing, especially when he gets to be intimidating and it works.

From a story telling perspective the movie does run into some pacing issues, but otherwise holds together and plays well with the universe. It helps expand the Meta of the new Disney Canon universe but doesn’t tromp all over the things that we consider Legends now. There were a few moments that made me giggle like a little girl when I saw things that were little more than trivia in 1994 when I committed the entire layout of a very special YT-1300 to memory. Yes, that was geek speak.

It is not shot like a Star Wars movie that we’re used to and that’s actually good. It expands the tricks future directors get to use and helped create some interesting dynamic action scenes that we haven’t quite seen before. It’s lit well and the effects are very well done. The downside on the technical aspects is you can tell there was another director on this before Ron Howard was brought in to pinch hit and try to knock this one home. There’s some pacing issues and some disconnects in the shots. What makes it work so well is that there is a lot of practical work here and lack of hyper saturation. It felt like a lived in world.

TL;DR (not getting rid of this, it’s almost a trademark)

Solo is a good movie. I think there are going to be people who don’t think it works and don’t find it as enjoyable. I don’t think it’s going to be as divisive as The Last Jedi was, but I think reactions will be split.

Honestly, I don’t give a damn. I enjoyed the movie. I had fun. I bounced in my chair (D-Box notwithstanding) and felt excitement watching a movie again.

Would you see it again?

Yes. The D Box was fun for it, but not necessary. XD is almost a must. 3-D probably not. Big screen though? Absolutely.

So you are buying it?

Yes. No Question

Why didn’t you use the Science Fiction hashtag you use?

Because Star Wars isn’t science fiction. It’s a fantasy movie in space. Princesses, Wizards, Rogues, daring chases and wild escapes. That hasn’t changed here.

 

Folks, the movie was a good time. This was Oceans 11, The Italian Job, or Thomas Crowne Affair in space. It gave me what I wanted to see. The cast was charming. The visuals were good. The directors slowed down enough to let moments that needed to go a bit go a bit and kept the action in a way you could understand everything going on.

I enjoyed Solo.

I hope you do too.

 

Goddess I have things I want to talk about with it too, but even with the new format – NO SPOILERS

Darke Reviews | Deadpool 2 (2018)

Trying a new format, see how it works.

First things first, if you liked Deadpool you will like Deadpool 2. Period. Let’s put the TL;DR upfront. It’s a solid film that at the minimum meets the expectations set by both trailers and the prior film. Ryan Reynolds is still charming. T.J Miller is still a waste of digital media. This is the year of Josh Brolin, good for him. Zazie Beetz is the best and we should praise the ground she walks on as Domino. There was not nearly enough of Yukio and Negasonic Teeenage Warhead, but hey at least we have a Superhero movie who acknowledges not everyone is straight.

Honestly, that’s one of the best things about Deadpool it does and continues to do the things no other comic book movie would dare. It pokes at every facet of the other films and its supporting industry and goes “Here I am”. Seriously, think about the last time you saw an overweight hero who isn’t The Blob. Now an overweight person of colour hero, who is also a kid? You won’t find one anywhere in movies or TV. You won’t find a modern comic book movie as effectively lampshade some of the ridiculous aspects to the comic book origin stories.

The movies biggest flaw is its pacing. It really feels it’s two hour run time; which could have been saved by cutting some of the joke scenes that go on a bit too long. The Rehash that just doesn’t work. Cutting TJ Miller entirely. No seriously, the movie would be better without him. Characters people really enjoyed could have gotten a few more minutes and that might have been worth it.

That said, have I praised Domino enough? Zazie is poetry on screen and we are all better for her and the portrayal of Domino. Admittedly I have a soft spot for the character, but it was just good to see a fun, good, bad ass lady on screen where there is zero romantic or emotional B.S with any of the other characters. She has her own agency and it works.

I am not going to try to force word count here, (or anymore) , but Deadpool 2 is worth your money. It’s a fun little romp that doesn’t fall prey to the pitfalls many sequels do. It *could* have been better, but it’s a far cry better than many sequels out there.