Darke Reviews | Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Special thanks to my movie going partner tonight for the summation on the TL;DR on this review. I can surely say you make the movie going experience better. Thank you.

Now onto the review itself.

Hooboy. Despite appearances this is spoiler free thanks to the trailers.

Set three years after the incident at Jurassic Park, a group of conservationists and scientists, plus survivors of the first incident at the park return to Isla Nublar to take what action they can to save the dinosaurs. What they find there is treachery by the very company who sent them as a great white hunter betrays them and a weaselly white man in a suit working for the older gentleman has his sights set on pure greed. Instead of wanting to preserve the formerly extinct animals, he wants to profit off of them. Our heroes must find a way to save the dinosaurs from the machinations of corporate greed without getting anyone else killed in the process.

Wait sorry that was the plot of Jurassic Park 2. Or was it Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom? I think…I think they are the same. They pasted over the paint with fresh wallpaper and some new modern furniture, but the house, the frame, the wiring are all the same. I blame Colin Treverrow, who proved with Jurassic World he wasn’t quite up to the task based on the audience and critical mixture that happened with it. Yes, it made oodles of money, but not nearly as much as the studio wanted when you consider it remained uncontested in theatres for weeks but saw consistent 50% box office sale drop offs week after week. Anything that might have contested it was even worse so it reminded us of 1993 when dinosaurs ruled the earth. This got him yanked from Star Wars Episode IX direction and after the laughable book of Henry it may be awhile before we see him in the directors chair again. He gets the blame for this as he was originally to script and direct, but was yanked from this one as well. Derek Connolly the other writer on this one was also the writer for Jurassic World and Kong Skull Island ….and Star Wars Episode IX, so hold on to your butts for that one.

*pulls up a chair and sits across from the two men* Look I get it it. You may have been given a raw deal from the studio. You didn’t have any great new ideas for a sequel to a reboot, which in itself is a sequel. So you went back to the well. Literally. You lifted the major beats and plot points from what is arguably the second best Jurassic Park film, then doubled down on all the beats you really loved from your last movie. The problem, gentle sirs, is that you crossed a line here. It’s a fine line in any reboot or sequel, of which you are dealing with both; but it is the line where you draw parallels to earlier works. You rehash scenes, beats, and locations from earlier – better works and all it makes us do is think of the better film or at least the scene where it was done better. I mean I will give you points for not having gymnastics beat a velociraptor, but that’s narrow praise.

Your main antagonist is near identical to the crib sheet you used. The secondary antagonist lacks any of the charm, wit, or sublime caliber of the original model – which makes him a comical parody of what was already a parody character. Did you not realize he was this thing? Then, oh…I just ….you expect J.A. Bayona, a horror director to shoot a scene that looks lifted right from a bloody Loony Toons cartoon. This is a mistake. This script was a mistake. It has moments which work, but they are but brief glimmers of something better that never arrived. Unless there was a contractual obligation the studio made a mistake here not bringing in another writer to tweak the script.

J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, Penny Dreadful – 2 eps), is clearly a talented director. There are very intentional costume changes that I noticed. He was able to get the actors to do more than phone it in which I think they were trying to do more than a few times. I get it the script hindered you, like a lot. I imagine the studio did as well. You had no easy task here. You did everything you could to tell a visual story that conflicted itself every twenty minutes or so and was plagued with such laughably bad decisions that Speilberg couldn’t have saved it. You too though have some things to learn. You have to earn your musical score. The music by Michael Giacchino was wonderful but did not belong in a movie about dinosaurs, volcanos, and evil corporations. It belonged in Middle Earth or some other middle fantasy setting. Your big bad dino’s theme cannot be at the levels of Sauron, or any other of the epic baddies, it wasn’t earned. I could tell you and your visual effects artists had the idea for one shot being awesome, and they tried so hard…but you beat it a minute later with a much better one. Then you beat it again five minutes before with one of the best. If the script didn’t go back to the well, you did too and too much of it and its sour.

I haven’t talked about the actors yet, besides mentioning almost phoning it in. Chris Pratt is Chris Pratt, though he largely looked bored here. Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire learned from the last movie and was wearing sensible hiking boots going back to the island. The movie makes sure you notice. No I am not joking. She’s fine otherwise. Justice Smith as the high pitched screaming kid from the trailer is fine; even if he has to utter the line every hacker in every movie says “I’m in.”  Daniella Pineda (The Originals) gives one of the most entertaining performances but I have a weakness for sarcastic smart feminists in STEM fields. It’s a thing. There is literally no one else worth mentioning, sorry James Cromwell, not even you.

I could spend another hundred or two words going over some not good CG work, really really bad science (I have rage), and ranting about this is a movie in search of an identity between action and horror and never quite hitting it.

TL;DR

Turn your brain off for two hours. You might have a good time.

I don’t actively hate this movie, its just another hollow high budget production that has a few moments that made me laugh or smile, but not enough for me to actually like it or feel anything about it at all. If any emotion I have towards the movie its a high level of irritation. I can’t even say this is a well made bad movies. Its a high budget mediocre movie that many will enjoy. I am so bloody happy for them I could cry. The biggest win is that the movie didn’t bore me and kept me engaged enough to want to see which plot point from previous movie they would lift next.

Should I see it?

After my dismal reviews on Avengers Infinity War and Incredibles 2, my overwhelmingly positive review of Solo, and less than stellar review of this one you decide. Personally I would say Matinee if you must see it. This is not worth full price, 3D or even XD.

So…won’t be seeing it again?

Nope.

Buying i..

Nope.

Ok what about Goldblum?

He is actually in the movie as a bookend. We needed more of him.

Is it really that bad?

Look I love the T-Rex. It’s amazing. It’s also a bloody apex predator. Stop giving it hero moments. Please.

 

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Darke Reviews | Hereditary (2018)

Having come from a dysfunctional family dynamic made this movie all the more interesting for me as the story unfolded.

Wait, you want a better lead in than that cold open? Sorry the movie has me going on a “Whiskey tango foxtrot” opening. Ok so this review is obviously late to the train be it hype or damnation, you decide.

I had been hemming and hawing on seeing it until my friend Grim D. Reaper over on MovieCrypt.com gave it the first zero skull review I remember seeing from him in a very long time. As Grim got this Vampire Princess into writing reviews in the first place over 20 years ago I trust his judgement. He and I don’t always see eye to socket, with me being the harsher critic, but I always respect his views. This was enough to turn me away from the film. A week later another dear friend, a true love, and moonlight in my life went the complete other direction on it. She was thrilled with the production and the movie. This left me in an odd spot, two people I trust and value the opinions of have opposite reviews of the film – thus I must see and decide who is right and who is dead. Wait, wrong movie.

From studio A24, which also brought us The VVItch, Ex Machina, and FreeFire; not to mention critical darlings like Lady Bird, Room, and Moonlight; you expect a certain style. This is a studio that has only been around for 5 years and has received 24 Academy Award nominations; and has several wins under its belt. A true indie studio but with a budget they use to make some of the most eclectic sets of films you will find in anyone’s catalogue. It would be dangerous to say they all have a certain vibe as the three mentioned I reviewed couldn’t be more apart in tone, style, or format; yet still there’s something familiar about them that is similar. There is a tight closeness, a sense of risk, and passion behind and on the camera you don’t see in many big budget productions from the major studios. I could tell you there is heart, charm, fear; but you could find those in any studio.

Hereditary does belong amongst the ranks here. You can tell that writer/director Ari Aster had a story in his head and heart he wanted to put on screen. He had a very clear vision on how and what he wanted to shoot which translates to every cell on screen. It is also transparent to me that he is a very talented director who brought out the best performance I have ever seen from Toni Collette. Playing Annie, she is a mother clutching with both fists to try to hold on to a family so damaged by past trauma you have to wonder if there is really anything to save. She is absolutely a powerhouse of acting through the film from sedate to on the edge to well  she covers the ranges. If anything her performance is so bold that it completely overshadows Gabriel Byrne who turns in a very subdued performance as Annie’s husband Steve. This turn down, which I find common in indie films like this where the actors energies are just a bit off from usual; turned down from 11 to a nice 7. It works here and gives the necessary balance to Collette’s role. The family is rounded out by Peter, played by Alex Wolff, and Charlie, played by Millie Shapiro. Both actors give a wonderful performance under Aster’s direction and their own abilities do shine be they subdued or manic.

The problem with the movie, despite its technical and artistic proficiency is the story and the characters. For the tension of this supernatural family drama to work, you need to invest yourself. Few of the characters present themselves as likable to me enough for me to care about their fate. This isn’t to say they don’t feel real, because most of their in character actions, dialogue, and beats make sense within the context of the film, the history hinted at, and other points of the movie that paint a mosaic of trauma that can only lead the direction it goes. Yet; if you don’t invest, you don’t let the movie in or let yourself into the movie it could come across almost comical at times; which I know is not the intent. There comes a point where the art gives in to itself and seemingly goes off its own rails and no vision or amazing performance can keep you on the ride.

Now this could be because I watch so many movies. I’ve discussed this before that seeing too many films can actually be detrimental to the movie going experience. You see things, you notice things. It’s hard to avoid words in titles on peoples YouTube videos or reviews; which if you see them and have a certain level of insight into film give away all too much. I remember back in 99 when I read a three sentence review of the Sixth Sense and the last one said “with a twist you won’t see coming.” In that moment I called what it was. It took away a bit of the experience for me and that was 20 years and a thousand or so movies ago – its’s why I promise you all to be spoiler free even in my descriptions of the films.

TL;DR?

Hereditary’s hype train is amazing, with a marketing campaign you don’t see much anymore that hearkens back to old 50’s and 60’s movie going experiences with stories of nurses in the theatre for when people faint. I can’t say it lives up to the hype. I wish I could. I think that Grim may have been too harsh on it, but he might be in the same boat I am with so many movies under his belt, certain beats feel almost telegraphed to us; a skill we cannot separate from our experience as we watch the movies we do – especially when people rave about it the way the critics did on this one.

Hereditary does not live up to its marketing campaign; but it is also not bad either. It is a very artistic look at the horror genre in a way I haven’t quite seen before. While sure, I saw many things coming a mile away, the overall structure, camera work, acting, and tight feel to the production are without a doubt to me solid.

Many folks rave on the ending and I can see why. It just didn’t land for me at that level.

What would you rate it?

If I had to give a fang count on this one, it would net maybe a 3.5 out of 5. It is solid, well made in every aspect, but even with my connection of dysfunctional family I didn’t get as invested as I needed to feel the impact of it’s summation. I think this is a good movie and I was intrigued and entertained, but you have to want it. You have to put effort in. I wasn’t all the way there so it only goes just the right side of good.

Should I see it?

If you haven’t already, I can say give it a shot on matinee. I think the atmosphere of a big theatre, dark, and quiet will help the movie for most people. Watching at home, in the light, with all the distractions will certainly take away from the experience.

Would you see it again?

With the right friends? Yes. I think there’s a lot of discussion material to be had about intent, artistry, execution, and of course meaning.

How about buying it?

I’m torn. Without the friend component I don’t think I would watch it again and to spend $20 on it for a physical or digital copy seems off; yet again it’s something to be studied for what it did do.

That was an interesting turn of phrase…

Yeah, wasn’t it? I think this is the perfect film school or art house movie. Not that it looks like a movie from a film school project, but that there’s a lot to analyze here that can and should be. There’s a strong discussion to be had as I said before.

You can easily go either direction on this film which is why I am (perhaps cheaply) landing in the middle; but in a time when we say we want original films – we can’t turn down our nose when we get one that is this well made.

 

Darke Reviews | The Incredibles 2 (2018)

In 1999 we were introduced to Hogarth Hughes and an Iron Giant. The world, as I remember it fell in love with Brad Birds creation. It absolutely flopped theatrically with a $23 million haul on a $70 million budget. It seemed (again recollection here) to gain life once released for the home market. I may be one of the few who haven’t seen it, or heard Vin Diesel in one of his earliest roles, but most of the people I talk to have very fond memories and feelings from the film. 5 years later, 20 million more in budget and the power of the mouse house, Brad Bird showed he had something special when he delivered us The Incredibles. It brought in over $260 million on a $92 million budget and is still considered by many to be a top notch, top ten super hero movie long before the rise of The Marvel Juggernaut we know and fear today. This was still the dark times, the times of Spawn and …Catwoman, and Ang Lee’s Hulk. Superheroes, super-villains, flashy costumes, a villain you could understand, and it wasn’t dark, broody, or edgy; unlike everything else in the hero market at the time. It gave us hope of a better world for our heroes; and a resounding ending  that left audiences clamoring to see more.

For 14 years.

Now, Brad Bird wasn’t idle during this time. He put out Ratatouille in 2007; which more than a few people love, but that’s a 3 year hiatus for an up and coming director in demand. Then 4 years after that, just when people were asking “whatever happened to” we get Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol; which breathed new life into the franchise and is generally loved. Here we go Brad Bird is back! We hear then he is going to work on Tomorrowland, inspired by the ride at Disney. Awesome right? Sci Fi, future tech, hope for the future?! This is our guy. Remember what he did with Incredibles?!

Then it came. We were left lost, confused, and even worse bored. While my review is overall positive on it, there are pacing issues and looking back I may have been trying to see more good in it than it deserved. Maybe not. Most folks couldn’t even manage a “whelmed” and went for under it. It didn’t even make back half its budget, which is rough on a Disney feature on a holiday weekend. In the Year of Fan4stic, it is considered (Box Office Mojo 2015 showdown) one of the most disappointing films of 2015. This is also the year of Jupiter Ascending and Terminator Genisys. Yeah like that.

Upon leaving the theatre tonight I have but one question:

Brad Bird – who hurt you?

You come back and write and direct this film, but it is missing …well everything.

Don’t get me wrong, this movie is perfectly adequate. I can tell where the money went for the cast and crew who made it. The movie looks beautiful. The camera work (yes there’s camera work in animation folks) is excellent. The actors all do the best they can with what they have.

What happened to you? The movie has no heart, no soul, no message. Before anyone goes off “its just a kids movie” – a majority of them actually do have a message for the kids even if they don’t see it. The first Incredibles is about being true to yourself and the importance of family in your life. It’s there. This movie doesn’t have any of that. There’s no growth to the characters, no change, nothing effectively learned.

The choice to pick up the movie where the last one left off was a bold one. It didn’t inherently hurt the movie, but it didn’t help it either. I feel as if our writer and director, Mr. Bird lost his inspiration somewhere. Lost his hope, because the movie is just pock marked with insecurity and cynicism. The lines of dialogue given just show over and over someone who has lost faith in the system and the world. They aren’t looking for the good anymore and just put out something with a fine shine of nostalgia and polished heroisim; it doesn’t take someone squinting to see just past the shine and see how dark the writer feels.

The movie commits one of the other gravest sins possible – it’s actually kind of boring. It has high moments, but the lull between them just goes too far. Even the action scenes just go…too long.

TL;DR?

The Incredibles 2 is a passable movie. It’s cute at times, but has significant pacing issues and runs the full two hours. You feel the run time, but the colours are pretty and will probably keep the kids from getting too restless. It relies on old tropes too much and doesn’t deliver a fraction of the heart of the first one. This isn’t to say it doesn’t try or even succeed once in awhile, but there just isn’t enough good or hope here to bring it all home

Should I see it?

Matinee at best. XD sound is good and I don’t know if they have 3-D showings or D-Box, but both might be an add if you have the excess funds to spare.

Would you see it again?

Not likely in the theatre, even with a movie pass.

What about buying it?

Maybe. Just maybe. Like I said, its cute, it’s pretty, it’s passable. That might be enough for a purchase. Ask me again in October when it comes out.

Any other thoughts on it?

It? No. The experience – yes. People lets chat. Pickles while nice at home are not theatre food. You can smell them three full luxury loungers away. I don’t know who thought these were a good idea.

Also ETIQUETTE.

We like the luxury loungers right? I know I do. You aren’t at home though. Don’t put your stank feet on the arm of the chair while you curl up and chat with your boy. Don’t be constantly shifting and kicking the chair. You aren’t at home. Other people are watching the movie too. Sit like a normal person, curl up if you want, but it’s an arm rest, not a foot rest, K? I felt bad for my movie going partner tonight. Not cool.

Now get off my lawn. (thats how I felt writing that)