Darke Reviews | Halloween (2018)

The most anticipated horror movie of the year, coming out two weeks prior to one of the most anticipated days of the year for a certain crowd. Halloween has a lot to live up to and a lot to make up for. A brief history for those who don’t fully understand where this movie is coming from; which considering the track record of the series makes sense.

Halloween was originally conceived back in the late 70’s to be a serial style movie with a different horror story each and every Halloween. When the original 1978 version made 144 times its budget back the studio insisted on a sequel and effectively dumped money in John Carpenters lap to do something he really didn’t want to; a sequel. Thus Halloween 2 in 1981 and why Michael and Loomis die at the end of it, with Carpenter having the vain hope of ending that story. In 1982, yeah, barely a year later, Halloween III: Season of the Witch came out. This was more akin to what Carpenter envisioned and tells an entirely different horror event on Halloween. It was too weird for audiences who were in slasher heaven and the title confused them expecting more Michael. So 6 years later as the horror and slasher craze grew with Jason, Freddy, and Pinhead, we get the Return of Michael Myers (1988). This is the start of the late Moustafa Akkad reign on the series, as a producer since the ’78 version he began to have more influence on the series along with other producers such as …the Weinsteins. This was the start of the story getting really convoluted and barely following its own continuity. Michael was back, Loomis was back. Now they introduced over the next three movies a cult that gave him supernatural resiliency and more. It’s so much worse than this, but trying to keep it simple here. After Halloween 5 (1989), and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), there is a slight break before Halloween H20. H20 was supposed to be a clean return to form on the 20th anniversary of the original. It returned to basics with Laurie and Michael, but just didn’t quite grab audiences as much as it probably should; even though it has possibly the second most satisfying ending in the series. The last of the original Myers series is Halloween: Resurrection and the less said about this the better. I will not discuss Rob Zombies Halloween movies – except to say I hate them. I’d rather watch the Cult of Thorn run (4,5,6) more than those.

With me so far?

So the writers were in a bind here. How do you tell a Halloween story respecting the lore, the history, and the icon that is Michael Myers but deal with the mess left by the sequels AND remakes? Simple solution reboot the series, but not from scratch. From the original. Ignore everything that has come since 1978 and go. Get Carpenter onboard for the first time in forever and see what you can do. I don’t envy the task Danny McBride (Pineapple Express, Alien: Covenant), his friend Jeff Fradley (writer for the HBO show Vice Principals), and David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, and the critical darling “Joe”) had on this one. Ignoring the content of the other movies is easy, but really remaining true to what the original film delivered character wise and bringing that back 40 years later – thats hard. They are putting themselves, Green especially as a director and writer here, up for target practice.

They need not have worried if they did at all. They did craft an honest sequel to 1978, which has several references that make the necessary callbacks without reminding us of a better movie. With few exceptions no one here in the script does anything dumb or illogical. The characters make sense. They feel like they would make these decisions based on everything you know and it propels the plot forward; if anything aside from Laurie the script lacks care for some of the fodder leaving you to not really care as much when they die which removes some of the tension that could have added to the film. The kills, which are important in this genre are well executed and tastefully done and yes brutal; rather than gore porn or splatterhouse style. The camera remains as still as Michael letting you savor what you both see and don’t see in frame. There are so many shots in this movie that are perfect for a wallpaper for your phone or computer because of how they were filmed; which means credit needs to go to cinematographer Michael Simmonds.

The acting is fantastic from the majority, with Jamie Lee Curtis giving us the same sort of transformed character that Linda Hamilton did between Terminator and Judgement Day. Laurie Strode is damaged, but focused, she is brave yet so afraid. Curtis more than capable of delivering the nuance; while the script and shooting let her as well. Andi Matichak gives a very human turn as Laurie’s grand daughter Allyson, and importantly she feels like she’s part of this family. I’d like to enjoy Judy Greer more as Karen Strode, the daughter to Laurie, but the script and character do her no favors, nor do they give Toby Huss much to work with. I was curious how Nick Castle would be returning to play The Shape once more as he did a majority of the motion and body work in the 78 version; while three other actors did other takes including the one face shot. He nailed it. He and the Mask are a presence and malevolent.

TL;DR?

Cutting the meat a bit short here, but its coming up on 2:30 and I do need sleep and really I just think you should see the movie. With a lean runtime of 106 minutes, John Carpenter back on the score, and some of the best horror cinematography I’ve seen in awhile Halloween is the return to form we’ve been waiting 40 years for. It isn’t perfect and suffers from some character issues and isn’t as tense as it could be Halloween was well worth the sleep deprivation for me and definitely worth it for fans of the franchise.

Should I see it though?

Yes. XD would be lovely to hear the music in admittedly and I did miss that opportunity.

Would you see it again?

Yes.

Buying it?

Yes. No doubts.

Are you overselling it at all? There’s a lot of hype on this one.

Manage your expectations. This movie isn’t the second coming of Michael, but it’s close.

It has some flaws and there is a kind of hollowness to it in some respects; yet I can’t blame those on the movie entirely.  The 1978 version is one of the first of it’s kind and without a doubt the most well known of its kind. John Carpenter and Debra Hill gave us something new and visceral then that Black Christmas (74), The Hills Have Eyes (77), The Town that Dreaded Sundown (76) and even Texas Chainsaw (74) just didn’t quite hit. Since then we have had 40 years of horror, with a majority of them being slasher flicks. There is next to nothing we haven’t seen before you can do in this genre and we all are a bit jaded here in 2018.

That didn’t stop McBride, Fradley, and Gordon Green from doing their best.

Personally, I think their best is good enough and this is the Halloween movie we need right now.

 

Edit: Because I included the original theme in the original review here is Carpenters take on it 40 years later

Darke Reviews | Bad Times at the El Royale

I love a good trailer. How do you know if you have a good one you might ask me. Well it should intrigue you for one. It’s meant to gain interest in the film. It should tell you just enough about the story to get you hooked and wanting to see more. Let you know the major players, the general beats, and tone of the movie. It shouldn’t spoil too much, if anything. It should in essence make you want to see the film merely by existing. There are dozens of bad trailers for good movies, good trailers for bad movies, trailers that lie, trailers that show the end, and then there’s Bad Times at the El Royale

 

Did the trailer lie to us?

Let’s start as we always do, with the writer which in this case is Drew Goddard; who also directed which makes this very clean. Goddard is best known for his time on TV shows such as Buffy, Angel, Lost, and Alias, then writing movies of various quality such as Cloverfield, Cabin in the Woods, World War Z, and The Martian. Directing, he only has Cabin in the Woods – until now. His TV work lets me know he can handle an ensemble, while his movie work tells me great set up but only so so on the execution and not always able to stick the landing; but that may come to others on the special hell that is WWZ. Here he attempts to spin a tale of interwoven lives on a single night in a single place of dubious history and perhaps even more dubious present. What happens when a Priest, a Singer, a Man not on his Honeymoon, and a girl clearly with something to hide convene on a poor innocent hotel employee; and as promised in the trailer who makes it through the bad times at the El Royale?

Honestly, Goddard does a good job here. The characters are mostly three dimensional archetypes of the early 70’s and each has their reasons for being there be it bad timing, bad choice, good choice, or just no where else to go. The shooting brings good tension to the film leaving you wondering just what the next thing to happen will be and while everything remains plausible you just can’t be 100% sure of what is going to happen next; and that in 2018 my friends is hard to do with an original work. The movie has some very intentional camera work and good control over it providing some dynamic shots that fit the movie. There are no tonal issues as the movie knows what it and sticks to it.

The acting of course has to carry the script and Jeff Bridges as Father Daniel Flynn (I am betting Goddard wrote the part for him…Flynn – really?) who of course has the chops to go through anything if given good material and competent direction. Thankfully he gets both here and we get a treat to see Bridges deliver like he did in 2010 with True Grit. Jon Hamm (Mad Men, Baby Driver) rarely is capable of disappointing, and proves that again here as the multiple layers to his character show. This is Chris Hemsworth I haven’t seen before and honestly want to see more of. Gone is the comedy and in it’s place is an interesting intensity I had no idea he was capable of. Dakota Johnson (50 Shades) is passable, but there are two who deserve just a bit more credit than I think they will get. Lewis Pullman, as our beleaguered hotel employee Miles, gives a nuanced performance that surprised me for someone I hadn’t heard of before. The absolute scene stealer is Cynthia Erivo in her first film role, but we will get to see her again next month in Widows. Erivo is our singer, but that’s understating her a bit. She won a Tony in 2016 for The Color Purple, so this woman is more than capable of both vocals and acting and she gets to do both here. She has absolute confidence in her role and her character and you can’t help but love her.

TL;DR?

Short meat and potatoes on the review here as with Gone Girl, I don’t want to discuss too much as this is a movie to be experienced. I am still having a hard time answering for myself if I liked it or not, but I can tell you it is a well made, well shot, well acted movie that has but one real flaw in its pacing. Running just over 2 hours it does feel it at times and can best be described as watching a distant train barrelling down the tracks to a broken bridge. You can see it coming, you know its going to be bad, but once it gets going nothing is going to stop it and that finish should be a thing to see.

Should I watch it?

This movie is going to be under appreciated for everything it does, so yes, I think you should. Then you need to come back here and tell me what you think.

Would you see it again?

Matinee probably if the right girl asks me? It was worth full price the first time. You don’t need XD or anything special here unless you really like the style of music then by all means.

How about buying it?

Hard to say really. I am trying to judge its rewatch value and I just don’t know. Like it’s good, but would I, could I watch it three or four more times? I don’t know

Did the trailer lie?

90% No. You’ll have to see it or asks for spoilers for the 10%

So where’s the Venom review?

With my will to see it? Eh I just didn’t think it looked that good. Might try this weekend though.

And next week?

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN!!!

 

Darke Reviews | A Star is Born (2018)

As I pointed out on my Location tag earlier on Facebook, this is not my usual genre. Dramatic movies and I have an interesting interaction with each other. Mysteries work (Gone Girl). Human Interest Stories, generally don’t. Just general dramatic pictures about people don’t resonate with me as much. Most drama’s deal with the ups and downs of people like or very much not like us often in very realistic ways. They speak to the pain of the human condition and share the stories to those who might need to learn from it, learn about it, or get a glimpse into it. I don’t need other (inspired by, real, or imagined) people’s pain and heartbreak when my life has enough of that on it’s own. It’s part of why you won’t get a lot of those on my review site they don’t interest me intellectually or emotionally. They provide me nothing I crave or even need. Dunkirk as an example, was going to be a cinematic experience retelling a harrowing event in World War II history. It was going to be told by a technical master Christopher Nolan. It was going to be so technically proficient people were going to bend over backwards to talk about how amazing it was. I knew all of this the moment I saw the trailer. But because of all of this, that left me wondering what I’d get out of the movie. Another example is Titanic. Historical event, one I studied extensively prior to her rediscovery, but there I had a love story and an emotional beating heart that carried me through. Granted the tragedy itself to see something I knew so well recreated (based on current understanding) for the cinema was gut wrenching and delivered for me both an emotional core and intellectual appreciation.

This of course leads up to me seeing A Star is Born.

A movie well out of my normal tastes, but starring the one and only Lady Gaga. Many people will be talking about this in relation to the Barbara Streisand version from 1976. I don’t particularly care for her (she’s fine, just not my taste in music or acting), and thus have not seen that version. What many will not likely be discussing is that this is the fourth remake of the story. There is an original Academy Award winner, plus six additional nominations, from 1937 produced by Gone with the Wind’s David O. Selznick. In 1954 it was remade somewhere over the rainbow with Judy Garland and James Mason, this one was only nominated six times for the Academy and didn’t win there, but Judy and James both took home a Golden Globe for it. Then there is the infamous 76 version ( a good year if I must say), which according to Rotten Tomatoes only has a 32% score. There are stories abound on ego and personality clashes behind the scene with Streisand for better or worse coming out victorious on those.

Now we have in 2018 a new adaptation with screenplay credits going to Will Fetters (mostly romantic dramadys), Eric Roth (Munich, The Good Shepherd, Ali), and Bradley Cooper debuting in his first screenwriting and directorial credit. Cooper of course has a million dollar smile and rose to wide audience fame with the Hangover series, and Silver Linings Playbook opposite Jennifer Lawrence, More recently he has been working in providing the voice to Rocket Raccoon in the Marvel franchises. The three of them had a lot to work with as the movie has so many adaptations, but as near as I can tell they made it their own while still keeping the rise and fall of two performers who love each other at the core of the film. Make no mistake this movie does have a core and that is it. While it doesn’t delve deeply into the rise from a story perspective, it does show the fall and the prices paid continuously through out. A cynical critic may pick on the fact that Coopers own character is the focus of that fall and dominates the majority of the screen time.

I suppose though, its particularly noticeable as whenever Lady Gaga is on screen as her character Ally, she rules. She has such tremendous screen presence and gravitas in her performance through the movie it would surprise you that beyond American Horror Story this is her first full on role in a major production. She nails ever scene and the camera just falls in love with her; credit to the director – Cooper – and cinematographer – Matthew Libatique (Black Swan, Mother!)- there too. We all knew by now that she was a stage performer from her years of giving us all that she has as Lady Gaga, her songwriting, production, and performances have helped redefine what the music industry could be. Here she lets the full weight of her acting chops go and it is a wonder to behold. Cooper of course is fine, as he has a different burden to carry here he does deliver it well. More on that after the TL;DR. Sam Elliot makes a surprise appearance but reminds us why we love him. The rest of the supporting cast gets very little time, and most everything is focused on Gaga and Cooper as it should be.

On a technical standpoint the camera work here is top notch telling a story in itself. There are so many scenes that have an air of craftsmanship to them that tells me this movie is Academy bait. The downside here though is the editing and length of the film. While the genre is not my usual, there is still a pulse to a movie and this one is stuttering. It goes for long, too long, beats without any real rise or fall, tension or growth of characters. At roughly the 90 minute mark I checked my phone to find out what time it was. There was still another almost hour to go after that and sadly it felt it. I am not sure what I could or would have cut, but it does lead to a slower pacing that distracted slightly through the later half of the movie

TL;DR

A Star is Born provided both emotional depth and intellectual depth for my entertainment needs this evening. My movie going partner tonight and I were able to talk about some of the aspects of the movie after and well there is a lot to talk about. This will without a doubt get at least a few nods at both the Academy and Golden Globes. I would truly be surprised if it didn’t.

The acting is amazing.

The screen work and camera work is amazing.

The songs are beautiful and heartfelt and the performances to go with them and the chemistry all work to make a Star is Born a bona fide great movie.

Would you see it again?

No, but you’ll need to read on to find out why.

Will you buy it then?

Unknown at this time according to my magic eight ball

Wait you didn’t answer if I should see it.

I know.

Ok, should I see it then?

The rest of the review should give you an inference, but  *sigh* Ok. I need to discuss something here. It violates my no spoiler rule, so here’s your warning banners. Stop now if you don’t want any spoilers.

Ok. No roll over text here.

This movie needs a trigger warning. There is an emotionally powerful and charged scene involving suicide during the movie. I didn’t know it was coming but I broke down crying watching it. I left the theatre immediately as the credits rolled to collect myself. I suppose the scenes were there telegraphing it, but it was still filmed in such a way that it was a gut punch I hadn’t braced for. It’s not glorified and it is horrifying. It is not gratuitous, but in those facets make it all the more poignant and painful to watch.

So please if you are triggered by Suicide in/on film do not watch this movie or be prepared to leave when you see the signs coming – and you will see them.

Sorry I don’t like dropping spoilers, but this may have decided if I saw this tonight or not. While I am glad I did see it, I am glad for the conversation I had after for almost an hour, if my head space had been worse or company I was in not nearly as awesome – it could have been a bad space night with a lot more tears and triggering responses.

Don’t worry, I am fine. I just feel I have a responsibility to my readers to let them know.

 

Darke Reviews | The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

So aside from the animated variety you won’t get many movies from me that would be considered kids movies, but the trailer for this one grabbed me somehow. Honestly, I’d have to say it was Jack Blacks performance in those trailers and the atmosphere of the movie that got me. Then I looked into it, and of course its based on a book I haven’t read or even heard of. Turns out the book was published three years before I was born, but I swear I never heard of it or anyone in my elementary school reading it or it being at a scholastic book fair (I miss those) even once. I’ll ask any of my old grade school mates that read my reviews (all 3 of you) if you can recall seeing it.

In the meanwhile, should you see the movie?

So the book was adapted for the screen by Eric Kripke. If you’ve watched the CW channel in the past thirteen years you’ve seen his name on a little show that much like its main characters refuses to die, Supernatural. As the creator of the show he will always be on the credits, he also happened to write eleven episodes himself. He was also behind such shows as Revolution and Timeless. This tells me he is good at making a product that does have mass market appeal, but also can have issues sticking the landing. He has a grasp of charm, pacing, mystery, and banter; all of which are necessary in a “haunted house” story that has a child, his eccentric uncle, and purple clad neighbor investigating the house for a mysterious clock. Quite honestly, there’s only a slight roll of the ankle on the landing here the movie is quite solid. There’s a bit much exposition here and there but its told as innovatively as they can and it does succeed in telling a coherent, charming, even quaint little story that is engaging.

Coming out of left field to direct is the gorehound himself Eli Roth. Roth is best known for his work on things like Cabin Fever, Hostel, and the Green Inferno, so of course this man is tapped to do a movie for a kids book. Without looking into it, I would guess this is something he asked for and fought for to get made vs being handed a script by a studio. This has the fingerprints of a passion project on it and sometimes that can be dangerous, yet here it wasn’t. You can tell by the darkness and atmosphere this is an Eli Roth production, but it never crosses the line on being too dark even if it dances on the razors edge with one or two shots. His overall composition is basic without any significant style to the shots, but each shot is still framed beautifully. You don’t always have to have a dutch angle or an inverted camera to make it good and Roth and his cinematographer Rogier Stoffers stick to the basics, but make it count. No one will be talking about it (but me probably) but the simplicity and cleanness of it was noticeable and worked for the movie.

From an acting perspective, this was Jack Black at his best. All of his usual schtick and overt goofiness is entirely subdued here giving a performance still fit for a kids movie, but still mature. I haven’t seen anything like this from him since King Kong with Peter Jackson (2005). I might actually go see more Jack Black movies if this is the direction he chooses to go. Aside from *one* scene it was nearly a perfect performance for my humor tastes and with just the right amount of drama to it that the movie needed.  Cate Blanchett is a goddess and can do no wrong. Much like Black here she has a subdued performance for a kids movie and there’s a single beat that had my eyebrows go up which I would believe was Roth’s choice, but damn if she didn’t sell it (again with a kids movie in mind here). Owen Vaccaro is our principle child actor here and he has a few beats that don’t work, but I am going to cut him some slack because they weren’t bad takes just not the best I think he could do. Overall his performance felt earnest and honest and he sold me on the character he was playing.

Visually the movie is a treat. It has atmosphere dripping from the walls almost literally and I want that house. All of it. The creature animations there are are bright and colourful but still are within the darker tones of the film. There’s only one real shot that could and should have been given a second look and I think Jack may have asked for it as its closer to his style, and the movie could do without. It just gels otherwise. This isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have some flaws as well. There’s some pacing issues that come hand in hand with the exposition dumps mid movie that may bore some children but otherwise the pace moves decently through the plot briskly enough you won’t find yourself checking your watch.

TL;DR

This is a cute, fun, little movie. It’s timing just at the start of fall is no accident as this movie feels like it should be a fall or halloween movie.  The only real complaint I have is asking myself and my partner tonight who is this movie for? It didn’t feel like a Young Adult demographic in its style or story. It might be a bit too dark for kids too young, so the best I can figure is the 8-12 range?  The performances are good, the plot is good, its just a good movie that families, including the adults, will be able to enjoy.

Should I see it?

It’s got my vote.  With a lackluster September overall and no real offerings for the families yet this should be able to make a decent amount this weekend and is worth that. You can pay full price here and not feel cheated.

Would you see it again?

Maybe. You buyin?

So you going to buy this family friendly movie?

If I am being honest, probably not. When it comes out on disc and if I see it I might.  It does have rewatch value and I am always for good atmosphere.

Final thoughts?

I was surprised how much I was entertained. From the 80’s throwback Universal Logo, to the old Amblin Logo, I can’t help but think of something like Monster Squad or some of the movies I saw when I was a little girl and this would fit right in. I am happy I saw it and I think, most people will be as well.

Darke Reviews | A Simple Favor (2018)

I happened upon this trailer only a few weeks ago and I was immediately curious about what the unfolding of the story would look like. Kendrick is always solid in anything she does, usually giving a stand out performance above and beyond her co stars; while Lively won me over in Age of Adeline and The Shalllows. I know Kendrick and Lively have been doing the rounds and marketing the film, but I’ve missed all of it; somewhat intentionally so I could enjoy the movie for what it wanted to do and bring me along on the journey of uncovering the mystery of what the simple favor might be and its results.

Was it worth the anticipation?

First we need to understand it was based on a book by Darcey Bell that I shall never likely read. It was adapted for the screen by Jessica Sharzer, who was a writer on a handful of episodes of American Horror Story and the 2016 movie Nerve that had some interesting ideas going for it. While I will never know what the material covered, I can say with confidence that Sharzer did an excellent job writing a screenplay for a suspense mystery that has an air of comedy to it that shouldn’t be possible with the directions it takes, but rides the line so deftly I cannot fault it. I often critique movies on tonal issues and had this one not been so intentional in its scripting it would have received the same such complaint. The script here is tight, and no I am not getting into the story beyond the trailer – Spoilers duh, but I don’t think there’s a single scene worth putting on the cutting room floor or a moment of dialogue I really found cringeworthy.

Surprisingly, some of the credit here goes to 2016 Ghostbusters director Paul Feig. Interesting and unrelated note, it is now getting the subheading of “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call”.  This makes Feigs first movie without Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters) since  2011, also while being his 4th film since then too. *sigh* He is not what I would call and inspired director, as the movie is largely shot as you would a rom-com or his usual fair within the cinema with static camera shots and a film almost entirely filmed from a medium shot, or close ups in a standard 180 back and forth. There were some hints of growth with a POV tracking shot or a slight sideways camera move, but not enough to call the movie thrilling in that aspect. What he can do, and proved in the only other film of his I’ve seen, is still get layered and nuanced performances from his cast. He brought the humor to the edge of too much a few times, but reeled it in at the last second all the while still giving us something to figure out and displaying the changes in our characters as the movie and mystery unfolds.

Kendrick and Lively are perfect together. Their scenes are endearing as you watch these polar opposite characters engage with each other and the evolution of Kendricks character Stephanie through the film. Watching that was truly a joy and so much beyond script and direction comes down to the levels that Anna Kendrick can bring to the screen. Also worth mentioning this is not a Blake Lively performance I have ever seen before and it is absolutely knocked out of the park. No one else in the film comes close, though Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) does his best. He is given more to do here than he was in that film, and the range is there. I would love to see him with a stronger director and different style of film to really understand what he can do. Granted I might be biased as his accent is to die for.

The movie does have its flaws though. As I said the camera work is uninspired and quite honestly, there’s a few things I would have loved to see them have the boldness to do. The pacing is brisk, but the editing is solid. One of the other highlights of the film in the technical aspect is the costuming, when you go see this pay attention to both our main female leads and watch what they wear as there’s very intentional craftsmanship in their costuming and make up through the film.

TL;DR?

This movie is the quiet dark horse of the weekend. It doesn’t cross the line The Predator did by going full comedy-action (in that priority order) and isn’t a historical mob drama, but I think it is quite likely one of the best releases we are going to get this September. This is not a mediocre film by any stretch, its both enjoyable and engaging; while still drawing you into the mystery and the lives of the charactrers. It has intent and effort that should be rewarded.

Should I see it?

Yes. No questions. Yes.

Would you see it again?

Absolutely.

Buying it then? 

No doubts.

You haven’t been this excited in a month; whats up?

The movie does a lot of things that speak to my interests across the board. It tells a story that just grabs me and takes me to the dark places I want to see characters go; even if it keeps on the guard rails. That’s the big flaw, it still is safe; beyond that it had me. I liked it.

Also special thanks to the unofficial girls night that lead to this and the friend who organized it and the other who joined us for the first time. I look forward to future engagements.

Darke Reviews | The Predator (2018)

The original Predator was one of the first R rated movies I have recollection of seeing end to end as a little girl, without sneaking it in after bedtime. I think A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first one I snuck in. This may explain many many things about me as an adult in retrospect. The 1987 Predator is a near perfect snapshot of the 80’s action film, right at the peak of all that was good in that time. It’s sequel in 1990 was solid and deeply added to the mythos of the Predators and added new weapons to their arsenal; and I still want a Combi Stick. I read most of the early novels which explored the Yautja (their species name) which introduced us to Aliens vs Predator back in 1994 and the awesome Machiko Noguchi. When in 2004 I heard we were getting an AvP movie I got excited. I watched it. I was less excited, but still enjoy it more than most. We don’t discuss Alien vs Predator Requiem (2007)

 

Not really, but if you've seen it, you are probably laughing right now.

Actual Screen shot from Requiem.

Then in 2010 after the dismal performance of Requiem, we were given the gift of Predators. They brilliantly took the story away from Earth and gave us the first Predator movie since 1990 to really feel at its core like the first one.  It actually deserves its own review. That being said people couldn’t tell if it was a reboot, remake, or sequel and after being burned multiple times this century gave it a pass; it is a sequel by the way. Eight years later Shane Black and 20th Century Fox return to the franchise.

Should they have hunted other game?

So the most common piece of trivia around this movie is that Shane Black, the director, was in the original Predator as Hawkins. For those that don’t remember he’s the first one of Dutch’s unit to die while he is guarding Anna. More people know him from his other directorial work in Iron Man 3, or as the writer of Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, The Last Action here, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. The man has a weird obsession with movies set at Christmas. So as he is talented with the pen as well as the directors chair, he was one of the writers on this film, along with Fred Dekker who also wrote for Monster Squad. Dekker is additionally known for the cult classic Night of the Creeps and the cinematic garbage fire that is Robocop 3.

These two are a hot mess, as is the script and feel of the movie. Yes, you will spend quite a bit of time laughing at the jokes and gags that pepper this movie like buckshot. That isn’t Predator though. It’s not a buddy cop movie and shouldn’t be. As a Director and writer he absolutely can do with the material what he wishes, but you also have to expect the backlash from both critics and fans of the franchise when you go off the reservation this much. It is a continuation of the franchise acknowledging the events of Predator in 1987 and Predator 2 (which canonically occurred in 1997); and alluding to other “visits”; but it doesn’t feel like any of the other movies except sadly Requiem. It lacks the genie in the bottle aspect of the first movie, the pressure cooker feel and expansion of the lore that the second brought, the finesse and style of AVP, but has the same shooting feel as Requiem – but hey you can actually see everything this time. It doesn’t have a feel of it’s own beyond buddy cop style action movie, this time with Halloween as a backdrop. Character motivations are thin at best and the direction of two of them leaves me scratching my head more than a few times as they seem to shift in tone as much as the movie does.

That being said, the action is kinetic. A scene in a high school stadium has some great fluidity of motion and build up that you don’t really get to see these days. You can follow the combat pretty clearly even with one thing being invisible and it being night; with one clear exception in the film you know where everyone is at any given point in relation to the surroundings. That exception is both immediately noticeable then…not. The creature effects are…well when they are practical they look fantastic. Do not ask me how often they are practical, the answer will do nothing but disappoint.

What really saves the movie is the actors. Boyd Holbrook (Logan) is our main protagonist and he really has the charm to make it work. He exudes the charisma needed to let you believe he can take the group he is with and get them to follow. Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight,  12 Strong) doesn’t quite have the same caliber of personality but pairs well with Holbrook as his character Nebraska. He feels like a believable character in an unbelievable situation. Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther, Marshall) plays Traeger and the faults I have here are not Brown’s, he’s solid the character and direction are…a choice. The same can be said of Olivia Munn (X-Men Apocalypse, Attack of the Show!); and while I like her performance and the character she’s playing there are some inconsistencies I have some issues reconciling.

TL;DR?

First let me be clear, I had fun at the movie tonight. That doesn’t keep it from being a hot mess. It feels like every idea they had for the movie got filmed. Some were edited out to varying degrees of success while others should have been edited out entirely. Everything is just above serviceable, but none of it feels like an actual Predator movie. All the toys are there, and Henry Jackman sure as hell used the music from the original, but this doesn’t make it good. Nor does toying with some of the original lines in act one. Ha ha, we get it, its a reference to the original movie. You see  you see! *eye roll* There’s ways to do callbacks, but this was not it.

The movie is an old wooden roller coaster from your childhood that’s just a bit smaller than you remember and not quite as thrilling as you want it to be. It looks similar, has a few new coats of paint, but the feeling just ain’t there anymore. The magic is gone.

Should I see it?

At a theatre with beer and popcorn. If your still watch the NFL and your team is losing this would be a good substitute. It is less painful than that and overall still better than Requiem.

Would you see it again?

In theatres? Unlikely.

But, you’ll buy it?

Time will tell. My magic 8 ball says likely, but not 100% sure yet. I think there’s rewatch value for the fun, but I may be more inclined to put in the first two instead.

Ok, it has an R rating – hows the gore.

I can’t decide if this is a spoiler or not, but um…the R rating is for language.

So there’s some controversy on this film – do you want to address that?

Yes and no. Most people who read reviews just want the review not the drama behind the camera. So if that’s you stop now. Like, Comment, or Share please! I am almost to 200 subs on Facebook.

If you want to know more keep reading.

The situation: Shane Black brought a friend of his on set and cast him in a role in which he would be a stalkery jogger going after Munn’s character during her introduction. This friend is a registered sex offender for assaulting a minor female. Black did not tell his actress the literal predator was playing a little too on the nose during his scenes. When Munn found out about it, she went to Fox and asked them to cut the scene – and they did without hesitation; as in within 48 hours of it coming to light. This lead to stories of Munn being isolated at the Toronto premier, as the cast that was there gave standing ovation to Black. This feeling of isolation was corrected by the time of the later LA premier. The entire cast of major players all have been in support of her and their comments (available here on THR) make it clear they do support her and her decision to come forward and Fox’s to cut the scene. In an era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, which are both long over due Fox responded the only way they could. The cast are responding the only reasonable way they can to maintain continued employment in that environment and yet in many cases it does truly feel sincere; which doesn’t surprise me too much considering the nature of the actors involved.

The problem I feel that needs to be addressed is Shane Black himself. While he has come out and supports the Fox decision (of course he does), bowed out of interviews at the Toronto International Film festival as this would be the only real story he would be asked, and has since apologized publicly and stated he didn’t know the severity of the crime of his friend; he’s not off the hook. He and Munn are both seemingly committed to hashing this out privately and that needs to happen too, but there is a conversation to be had in what gave him the right?

What gave him the right to cast someone he knew was a sex offender in a role that that was literally an individual harassing a woman and NOT tell his actress? When Olivia Munn found out (I haven’t figured out the when/where) but when she found out – he should have acted immediately. It should not have been her to ask Fox – it should have been him. He should have had the first public statement out of the gate (crafted by Fox of course) addressing it and neutering the entire issue there.

Instead, yet again, a woman must be the one to raise her voice, put her career at risk, put the release of her movie at risk because he – and the rest who knew – were complicit in not doing anything. James Gunn was fired for comments from a decade ago, that he long since apologized for and taken action to be better about – yet here’s Shane Black and…nothing.

It was very difficult to watch the movie and not think of this and had the scene not been cut – I wouldn’t have watched it at all. Shane Black needs to do a lot more penance than making up and apologizing to Munn, I don’t know what it should be, but I truly don’t think he’s learned from this. I read his statement a few times, but it just rings hollow. He takes the responsibility for the poor decision, but in the same breath says ‘we cut the scene’. No – you were told to cut it. There is a difference Mr. Black.

The conversation has been started yet again on this and I am hoping other directors learn from it and that Shane Black truly truly comes to understand and addresses his failing here.

 

Darke Reviews | Peppermint (2018)

Back from vacation, recovered from said vacation (mostly) and already a movie to review. Fair warning, I probably won’t see The Nun. I haven’t been too thrilled by the Conjuring franchise in terms of horror itself so instead this week I am watching Peppermint. I need to make a callback to a film a mere six months ago, Death Wish,  on what the purpose of this movie is as I get into the review here. Back in that review I discussed the purpose certain genre’s give us and that the most common reason to see an action movie is Wish Fulfillment. We, as the audience, want to be the bad ass who protects our family, our friends, our town, to be the beautiful one, the one with the chiseled abs, or deity like physique. Go to any high school party (ok when I was a kid anyway), college dorm, or bar fifteen minutes before last call and a half dozen beers already put away and you’ll find that group of friends having this conversation. This also applies to most gaming groups at one point or another.

“So like what would you do if <X Scenario happened>”

“Oh man I’d…..”

And the conversation usually goes to how they would kick butt, not be afraid, etc. Hell I’ve had this conversation, I usually like to preface it with “I’d like to think I would…” as I have no bloody clue what would happen in the moment. Few of us do (thats a good thing). That’s why we have our fiction in TV and movies where the characters with the power of the script behind them get to do the thing we wish we would do in that moment. This is very important to be aware of and I need to address it here, as I derided Death Wish for it, but I intend to take a different tack here.

Why is Peppermint different than Death Wish?

The movie follows the same basic premise. Bad things happen to our protagonists family. They train to become a bad ass. They kill bad guys as a result. This is the Punisher and a hundred other vigilante movies concepts. This is every revenge movie we’ve watched from I Spit on Your Grave to Even Lambs Have Teeth.  Chad St John, the writer who gave us the Punisher short Dirty Laundry and the droll London has Fallen utilizes all of those techniques, but he’s learned since his last film. The Director knows this genre well as Pierre Morel also directed District B 13 (fantastic film) and Taken. So again why is it different than Death Wish if its the same thing?

Well for one the movie doesn’t really attempt to glorify the actions of our protag, Riley North, played as effectively as you can by Jennifer (Alias, Love Simon, Elektra) Garner. She is a wanted criminal from the word go here and there’s no ambiguity from the cops or FBI in that they want to bring her in, know who she is, and is trying to do so. The movie touches on social media as a backdrop, where in DW it was very much the side plot in how Social was responding to him and a ham fisted attempt to create debate. Here the movie threads that needle a hundred times better simply by leaving it in the background. Anyone who has been watching Social Media recently with any sense of awareness would know that yes, there is a population that would be cheering her on. She’s killing bad guys right? The movie doesn’t mince words though and lets the main drivers objectively say she’s still a murderer.

Secondly. it’s quite simply made better. I’ve discussed how movies sometimes start “In Media Res” – with the plot already going. Catch up or don’t. This does that. Quite often in film review or discussions we may jokingly say if they got rid of the boring parts, they would have a good movie. This actually does that. It’s trimmed to the bare essentials. There’s very little fat on the movie at all. It alternates between action beats and investigation well enough that it keeps a brisk but easy to follow pace.

That said, the editing while strong in this area also hurts in others. There’s a few camera tricks that we’ve seen from Morel before that just don’t work here nearly as well. The action is clean, but also very procedural and not as kinetic as say Atomic Blonde or John Wick. I am both praising and damning it for the same thing, as it was edited tight, but maybe too tight. There is no emotional weight or connection in the film rather we are delivered a series of small action beats with thin connective tissue that is there, is doing it’s job but is too thin to support any weight of emotion, development, or arc.

TL;DR?

Peppermint is solid popcorn fare. It’s entertaining, and the audience I was with reacted to the the action with engagement which enhanced my particular experience. There were the winces, the oohs, and aahs. This won’t win any awards to be sure, but Morel, St. John, and Garner deliver well enough I was pleased with what I saw.

It is well made enough to differentiate itself from Death Wish and just ends up being a standard revenge action film that doesn’t go for a message or drive some deeper meaning down your throat. It simply says I am here to deliver a Revenge movie and let you watch bad guys who did bad things die.

I can’t fault a movie for not trying to be more than it is. Point in fact, I often do fault movies for trying to be more. Peppermint knows what it is and stays in it’s lane.

Should I see it?

Matinee, sure. It’s also viable when you get it on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, who ever gets it. I mean a Theatre is nice for this one, but not a necessity.

Will you see it again?

If someone wants to take this girl on a date? Yes. – what I consider this date movie material. I am weird alright.

Yeah…ok. So buying it?

Yeah pretty much.

The other actors in the movie though?

They exist. Look no one was winning any awards here. They all at least put in an effort and avoid phoning it in. There’s charm.

Also – I need to call this out. The line from the trailer where the title supposedly comes from is never in the movie.

..Date movie?

To be fair, I also would consider It or Happy Death Day good date movies.

Right, so next week?

The Predator is on deck, but I’ll have to call out some recent news regarding Shane Black when I do.