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 | The Commuter (2018)

First review of 2018! Happy New Year folks and welcome back to AmusedintheDark.  Don’t worry we still keep things spoiler free around here. I know towards the end of the year I picked up a few new followers (still haven’t broken 200 on Facebook yet) and a few regular readers. Some of you have been with me since the beginning – to which you have my thanks for every Like, Share, Retweet, and Reblog. I managed to get a public screening pass for this today, sadly I am not online press – yet, but that is why you are getting this review a little ahead of the Thursday night release.

I’m breaking from my normal format on this one for a bit of discourse, a conversation if you wish to have one over on the Facebook page. It’s relevant to the final review so please bear with me and I promise you there’s still a TL:DR waiting for you at the end.

I mentioned to a few people that I was seeing The Commuter today and a few were like “this looks really good“, and I was confused. From the moment I saw this trailer I was at the most non-plussed by it, so how is it people have such a different reaction. I mean sure everyone has different opinions on things – that’s obvious. But peel the layers back and I realized, I’ve seen too many movies.  It’s the Reviewers Paradox (I should trademark that).

You see there are people who go to see movies and don’t care, which is absolutely fine. Don’t let anyone tell you different. There are people who want to see movies that make them think or feel something; to get that personal reaction of it whether or not it’s horror, comedy, romance, drama, or a philosophical film bridging one or more genres. Also perfectly fine. These are not mutually exclusive either. You can mix and match to your hearts content and I encourage you to do so if that’s what you want from movies!

Then you have reviewers or critics which I kind of consider similar but different enough for distinction. I’ll cover that in another post. We go to a movie for the reasons above, but also to constructively provide our thoughts to others on it’s merits and flaws. To provide a recommendation based on the experience of having watched a given movie and hundreds, if not thousands more. We observe the technical components such as editing, plot, story, camera work as much as the acting, and post production sound and effects. We store all of this and continually learn. If you look at many of my early reviews they are far less technical, but also neither more or less forgiving than I am now. Only now I can articulate better what is good or bad about a film. Which is part of the problem….

Reviewers and Critics – we see A LOT of movies. On average I watch 38 theatrical films a year as new releases and double that via mediums like Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, Vudu, etc. that don’t make the theatrical cut. We observe patterns in releases, such as January and August being dump slots for movies that no one cares about. December being the drop site for Academy Award contenders. March, May, June, November being your tent-pole pictures studios hold their breath hoping to beat the others soundly with.

The phrase “we’ve seen it all before” comes to mind. This is why you will often see score sites, such as RT sometimes be so drastically different than the theatre goer. We honestly do, sometimes, see it differently because we’re comparing it to everything else we’ve seen before. We can see the parallels and repetitions. It isn’t always bad either. Movies can repeat themes, repeat core ideas, hell repeat entire plots and still be good. It just means we notice when they do and have to decide for ourselves

Can this trope/thing/mcguffin be forgiven? Does it add to the movie? Hurt it? Have no impact whatsoever and pass the pop corn please? 

This is the Reviewers Paradox. We are expected to provide constructive opinions on movies, but the movies themselves are by nature so repetitive in their components we can be seen as too harsh.

You will see in many of my reviews if you look back me use phrases like “I was entertained” – even on movies which are kinda bad. You’ll also see a lack of Oscar contenders on my list quite frequently as well. There are amazing films being made that are just plain “Great” that I will never see because the subject doesn’t interest me. Because sometimes I want to keep from getting too jaded from seeing proficient films that I end up judging other movies too harshly, where they aren’t as proficient in whatever arbitrary category you look at but provide some form of entertainment to its audience. I am never likely to watch Dunkirk, or The Post, or even things I am told are amazing like The Phantom Thread.  They didn’t get my interest and I may find myself not being fair to them or becoming less fair to movies that don’t have Oscar Bait written on the projection reels.

I reposted an article the other day talking about how Hollywood blames certain review sites and people like me for why people aren’t going to the movies. While the most common response to this is “Try making better movies” – I can’t help but ponder is there a kernel of truth. Look at what I’ve written so far about the difference between an average movie goer and a reviewer or a critic. I think about how many movies I put in the “Meh” to “Bad” category last year when I was writing my Best and Worst of 2017.

I even considered maybe I should stop reviewing because I am getting too jaded.

Then I saw The Commuter.

I heard people on the exit interviews saying “I was on the edge of my seat”, “It was good.” I thought about my own review for it, my own thoughts and how they lined up. The question stood out even more. We’re just over a thousand words on this review and I haven’t even discussed the movie yet; but I think this topic was worth it. Putting these words to screen from the horror show that is my head can help me articulate why some folks like a thing and others don’t. It can help you as my reader understand why you enjoyed a thing when me, or some other reviewer or critic didn’t.

I promise you, if you read a review of mine and see a movie, and disagree with me – let’s discuss it! Please! I absolutely have not and will never begrudge someone enjoying a film I didn’t or hating one I love. In fact, quite often, I’d love to talk about it with you. Not to change your mind but maybe to change mine. There’s a really good chance you saw something I didn’t, or appreciated something I couldn’t. This always intrigues me. 

TL;DR Part I

Which brings us to The Commuter itself and the question is this a train you should miss?

Director Jaume Collet-Serra returns to the screen with clearly his favourite actor Liam Neeson. Serra has previously directed him in Unknown, Non-Stop, and Run all Night. He was also the director on the fantastic horror film The Shallows. The writers on the film are Ryan Engle (Non-Stop and Rampage – to be seen later this year), Philip deBlasi, and Byron Willinger in their first official scripts; which does invoke my Rule of Three.

The Rule of Three continues its validation. The premise of the movie at its bones is “The Box”. Press a button, getting a life changing amount of money but someone you don’t know dies. Now they’ve added layers to it, such as an isolated location but we’ve seen these layers before in movies that didn’t make it work then, such as well….Non-Stop. You’ve seen similar “do x or y will happen to your family” before and mysteries on a train, on a plane, on a bus. It CAN work, look at Speed, Locke, or even Snakes on a Plane as examples. They all have very similar components but were just done better.

Sometimes they add humor, sometimes they add good action, sometimes they add tension. This movie tried to do the tension and action but failed miserably. Tension works best when you increase it and release it as the movie goes on. But never release it all the way. This failed to release the tension and continued it’s attempts to build it. Attempts is an important word because if you fail to increase tension by slowing the pace down or adding little twists and red herrings, but never giving an out – you end up with the opposite reaction; which is boredom. The Commuter is only 1 hour and 44 minutes when your average blockbuster is 2 hours plus these days and you don’t notice. This felt considerably longer than it’s running time and just when you thought it might be wrapping they keep going. It was like all the worst parts of the Return of the King ending.

This isn’t to say it’s all bad. I did, from a technical perspective, find the opening of the movie a creative way to show the day in and day out of a mans life and the repetition we all go through on our morning routines. It was needed for establishment and it was done well. It’s also at least an ‘original’ film, not based on a book movie or anything so that’s something. Next to nothing else worked for me though. The actors were wasted, the pacing was awful, and nothing came as a surprise.

No surprises mean you fail as a mystery. Even movies where you know the ending can still surprise you or engage you if done well. Look at Murder on the Orient Express. You KNOW the ending, but you sit through and wonder how it’s going to unfold.

With this movie? Not so much.

TL;DR Part II

The Commuter derailed. It fails on basic principles of being an action movie, a thriller, or a mystery. It doesn’t succeed at one when it tries to be all three. I maintain Liam Neeson, and most of the other actors, took this for the paycheck. Neeson himself has become a parody of his own roles to the point where people are going to want to see this to see him be “bad ass” since Taken reinvented him back in 2008 from a dramatic actor to the action star.  I would actually pay to see him take a full on parody role of himself in a feature film.

I really feel for everyone who made this or put money into it. No one goes out to make a bad movie, unless you are The Asylum. You make a movie because you love making movies. I feel bad when the final product is derivative and dull. Being a creator isn’t easy. I hope they find a new project that’s better because while Bryan Mills may have had a special set of skills, this movie sure doesn’t.

Should you see it?

Nope. I am hoping when I see Proud Mary later this week I can recommend that instead.

Were you really thinking of quitting reviews?

Yeah right up until I wrote this. I realized if nothing else Reviewers can hold Hollywood somewhat accountable. If “we” are to blame for the down turn in box office – maybe rather than being antagonistic towards its audiences and the reviewers Hollywood might start talking to us? It’s a vain hope, but hey a girl can dream.

So you’re not?

Nope. Still going strong. Still trying to see what I can do to stir up more viewers/readers, but I have ideas.

What’s Proud Mary?

Atomic Blonde/John Wick but with Taraji P Henderson and it looks awesome.

Thanks for bearing with me on this really long review and editorial folks. Hope you stick around and as always if you want to support me remember to like, share, retweet, and reblog!

Happy New Year.

Darke Reviews | Best and Worst of 2017

Tried this last year, seemed to work. Let’s go again – top 6 movies and worst 6 movies. 38 movies reviewed this year 12 make the list.

Rules:

  • Now this list is strictly based on movies I have watched as part of a First Run experience in theatres.
  • Boycotted Movies don’t get to make the list – so no Kingsman.

 

Best of 2017

    1. Wonder Woman
      This shouldn’t surprise anyone, not only was Wonder Woman one of the most watchable and re-watchable films of the year. It was a landmark movie as the most profitable movie by a female director (Patty Jenkins) ever, best DCEU movie, best Superhero movie of 2017, 5th best Superhero movie ever (behind the two Avengers movies and two Dark Knight movies), bringing in over $412 million domestic for a total of $821 million world wide. DC nailed it with this one and it shows. They beat Marvel to the punch and proved it could work, despite Marvel CEO’s saying it couldn’t. Wonder Woman lived up to her name and truly was a wonder…and the best movie of 2017.
    2. Blade Runner 2049
      This one didn’t fare as well at the box office bringing in only $91 million (domestic) on its $150 million budget. I truly believe they misjudged the market for this one as much as anything. This is an amazingly well crafted, cerebral, and beautifully shot. It makes number two on my list without question.
    3. Logan
      Just watched this again the other night. It holds up so well. It is unlike every other superhero movie that has come before, well used R-rating aside, it is both heartbreaking and visceral at the same time. None of the others have managed to do what Logan did. It has a few flaws in Act II but still just an amazing movie breaking outside its own genre.
    4. It
      Three viewings in and a fourth today this, the highest grossing horror movie ever, is an amazing adaptation of the material. While I will admit some of the horror is lost over the successive viewings, it holds up and I think it will continue to hold up for years to come. I do worry about the sequel though based on some things I have heard…
    5. Atomic Blonde
      This one beats out John Wick 2. The action is amazing and done in camera. Long tracking shots of fights. Charlize Theron doing much of her own work. The music is incredible. I’ve watched this five times now and still enjoy every minute.
    6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
      Three viewings of this one as well, as promised in the review. It is flawed in a few areas, but is still one of the better films of the year for pure entertainment and structure. It uses its budget well, the actors are all on point.

Special Mention: The Shape of Water – I watched this the other day and did not get a review up. My bad. It would have made the list about this spot, or beat out Star Wars. Yes. It is that good.

Worst of 2017

  1. Geostorm
    I was torn between this and Flatliners, but really this was worse. Its harmless, but it is just bad across the board with few if any redeeming qualities to it.
  2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
    I am just copying my TL;DR for this one: It is a kinetic, frenetic, frenzied mess of a film with no sense of itself. It isn’t bad enough to be mocked by MST3K or good enough for me to actually hate it. It just is a disappointing film in which the actors I think try but are hampered by a script held together by bailing wire and day old bubblegum; and direction that leaves me wondering what happened to Guy Ritchie.
  3. The Dark Tower
    Originally in my number three spot. I considered this one so bland it left me unfeeling where I felt real anger at Covenant. Its a mess. I might have moved it to number five, but I think King Arthur has some aspects that are ok, but none of this works. None.
  4. Alien: Covenant
    A beautifully shot failure. Every aspect of a solid Alien movie is missed here. Every aspect of Good Sci fi is missed here. Nothing works and it left me angry.
  5. The Mummy
    This was almost the worst movie of the year for me. Its bad in every single capacity. From the first trailer to its final credits roll, it does nothing right. Nothing good. Nothing interesting. Ok it did cast Sofia Boutella, but misusing her so badly is a crime in itself. It absolutely nuked the Dark Universe that they were planning and for that I am thankful if the rest would end up like this. It could be saved, but not with this as a groundwork.

Special Nomination and Worst Movie

Ghost in the Shell

This was in my rollover text on the review of the 1995 film and deserves to be shown in it’s raw form now: Screw this movie in the face with a rusty chainsaw dipped in blow fish poison wielded by someone who has a personal hatred for that face.

As you know when the first casting came out I was against it due to Scarlett Johansson, who is a good actress, being given the role over someone like say Rinko Kikuchi, or any other of the dozens of Asian actresses who should have gotten the part. I have talked about White Washing before on several reviews. I am going to link to the bowl of raisins story again because it still explains it better.

Mostly white people go “I don’t see the problem”.  It has nothing to do with her acting. I am sure her acting is fine. The problem is the part could and should have gone to any number of Asian actresses. You are going to see counter videos of people going to Japan and speaking with Japanese people what they think. They in the clips shown – don’t seem to have a problem. They of course are not looking for representation of themselves in Western media. They aren’t looking for heroes, icon’s, actors, actresses, stars, and the people we look up to here to go “I can be that”. Representation matters.

Fine. Ignore both sides of the theoretical argument of who could have and should have been cast. The weak excuses about why it was done. The spoiler. They literally white washed the character. Literally.

The character in the movie was a Japanese girl named Motoko, who was kidnapped and had her brain implanted into a Caucasian cybernetic body and had her identity stripped from her. 

What the actual…

How..can anyone justify this? Please tell me.  They literally took an Asian and “improved her” and made her white in the process.  It doesn’t matter that most reviewers I have watched said its great visually, but ok otherwise. Just ok.  They literally and figuratively white washed her and have spent the past year defending it.

This movie needs to be burnt to the ground. This is a problem and folks – you need to help stop it. Please stop supporting movies like this.

 

 

So that concludes my list – thoughts? Feelings? What are your best and worst of the year?

Editorials in the Darke | Sequel Bait

From my Facebook Wall:

So I was reading your review for the new Blade Runner (I just love to read your eloquent reviews!) And I was thinking… it seems to me, that it is far easier to make a whole new film then to attempt sequels. But what would you classify as the top ten sequels (any genre) in your opinion ??

This is kinda a loaded question, but one I want to take a stab at. Let me break it down into parts before getting to the meat of the question itself.

Far Easier to make a whole new film than attempt sequels

As a writer, and someone who is familiar with fan fic, it’s easier to work from a framework. Original ideas are hard only because as writers we tend to question ourselves far too often and think we are being too derivative of someone else’s body of work. This only gets harder as time goes on and more products are out there. Ex Machina could be seen as Blade Runner told with a cast of 3, but it isn’t quite that. Of course you also have reboots, in which you take the original narrative and try to modernize it or do something new with it. These have mostly poor reception with only a few actually even equaling the other work from a purely objective much less subjective standpoint. I could probably write a doctorate level thesis on that concept alone.

So then you come to the sequel itself, which has factors that can make it easier or harder when you take them into account:

  • Popularity of the property. This even has a further breakdown when you consider nostalgia.
  • Time between films
  • Budget
  • Success of the property
  • Property framework, or does the original work allow for organic sequels?

Frequently we find sequels being ordered with release dates before even a pen is put to paper to give a good script after a film does well in the box office. Usually this results in a train wreck as the creative process takes more time than is allowed, but the studio wants to get the money while people still care. Which leads into time between films. At 35 years Blade Runner is one of the longest times between actual sequels, but due to that it has built considerable credibility and nostalgia within the film community – yet it effectively bombed on its release. The popularity got it a sequel but also creates harsher judges of its quality on release. Some sequels are given less budget to work with all but damning them, while others are given exhorbitant budgets – which does not equal success as much of what made some things work was how the production had to get scrappy and do more with less, when given keys to the kingdom creativity can actually die.

Many films don’t leave room for sequels but we get them anyway. Carrie, Fright Night, even Star Wars could be considered a movie that had little room at the time for a sequel but here we are 40 years later. Others implicitly set up sequels which will never get made for good or for ill, Push, Jumper, and a lot of Young Adult films tend to fall into this category. Many reviewers (including me) and those in the critique business (Cinema Sins, Honest Trailers, Nostalgia Critic) even make jokes about how its cute they think they will get a sequel.

I could really go into this more, but for now let’s talk my top 10 sequels.

Rules:

  1. These are sequels I have seen both the original film and the sequel. If I haven’t seen it – it will not make the list, so you won’t see the critically acclaimed Godfather II on here.
  2. In many cases I am not stating explicitly that the sequel is better than the original, only that it is really good.
  3. I am including films that are part of series, but will only rate the second film against the first – so yes, you are going to see Empire Strikes Back on this list, but you won’t see Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Back to the Future 3, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, or Fury Road
  4. If I am reminded of a film later, I may re order this list.

Ok so here we go. These are in no particular order, currently.

    1. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (1980) / Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

      Star Wars is an iconic piece of movie history. It defined the lives of tens of thousands of children and rewrote the rules of what summers and blockbusters were. It is, however, flawed. This doesn’t lessen it’s impact, but does give room for its sequel to be better. While it is clear Empire was written to be a continuation where Star Wars was not, despite protests to the contrary, it still holds as it’s own film. It successfully reintroduces the characters with no loss of personality, growth in character, and then expands the universe. The Empire becomes seen as the massive fist that it is vs. a single monstrosity. The sets, threats, and beats all just work better than they do in the first. Much of this can come from Kasdan’s writing, but also having the power of an established universe. You don’t need to explain as much, but have the luxury of using your footing to get more stable.

      Then of course there’s the ending. It would be easy to say no movie made now would have the audacity to end the way Empire does. While you still have some hope it *must* be acknowledged the heroes are playing from the back foot now and their positions are in jeopardy. This is really what gives it such staying power is that the heroes are not always triumphant. If you consistently win without sacrifice then the wins have no value. People, audiences, love to root for the underdog and if the hero is on top you just have a perfunctory win instead of a fight to come out on top in the next film. Empire delivers this and will always be remembered fondly for it.

    2. Color of Money (1986)/ The Hustler (1961)

      This will seem an odd one coming from me and it isn’t really a well known sequel. The original film has both amazing performances from Jackie Gleeson and Paul Newman. What the sequel does so smart is they introduce you to a very young Tom Cruise who seeks out a now aging Newman to show him how to shark. The music, the acting, the personalities all work and shows a logical dramatic evolution of the Newman character. It is actually rare to make a sequel like this where your original young star now plays the elder mentor. Its on this list as I think the formula here has opportunity for usage. It could and should have been used on the recent Flatliners film as Sutherland was in fact playing his prior character and would have been perfect to continue the story and mentor the new scientists on the risks.

    3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) / Blade Runner (1982)

      Just see my recent review and know that these films are amazing pieces of work and the sequel is the best possible sequel you can make from a movie that didn’t have implicit architecture to do so. Already news agencies are talking about how 2049 bombed. As a financial investment it certainly did, but this doesn’t keep it from being amazing film making.I was tempted to throw everyone by putting Kurt Russel’s Soldier on here as the sequel to Blade Runner, but as its merely a spiritual successor/side-quel set in the same Universe I couldn’t. But you should see it and I still consider it an amazing film for what it is.

    4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)/ Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

      The first movie of the remakes here has one of the greatest film surprises in it of all time with a single word uttered. The second capitalizes on the world and the conclusion and takes us a time into the future. The visuals become stronger as does the storytelling. It is great science fiction in that it makes us look at our own humanity and our interactions with each other through the lens of how Ape culture is being built, interacts with itself and the natural divisions that occur – THEN goes and adds humans into the mix to show when opposing cultures meet. Many deride movies like this for showing the evil of “man”, but ask the un-contacted tribe in the Amazon what they think of modern man. Wait, you can’t they were just wiped out by a gold mining company.We do have better angels, but movies like this remind us of what we do all too frequently overtly and unconsciously amongst our own society. This is why it makes my list as the movies put these issues in focus and do it well consecutively.

    5. Aliens (1986) / Alien (1979)

      Alien is one of the definitive horror films of all time. So how do you make a sequel in the genre? Trick question – you don’t. You instead turn it into a pulse pounding yet character driven action movie. Aliens does something that most horror and action films fail to do – let you get to know the characters just enough so that when they die you knew who they were and a basic personality. To borrow from Oceans 11 “He has to like you and forget you.” Modern films in these genres give us the same amount or more of disposable characters, letting you know they will die, but don’t bother to make you care so the stakes never rise. Think about Vasquez, tough as nails, reaching for her partner Drake. Sgt. Apone, Frost, Weirzbowski, Ferro. Most fans of the franchise know each of those names, but they were nothing more than tally marks against the things have gotten bad. Hudson, Vasquez, even Gorman are left with you so that when they die, you see just when it couldn’t get worse it does. Hicks is taken out for the last fifteen minutes of movie, but for a moment you worry he won’t make it because of how all the others were structured. Even Bishop is set up to let you worry and you do. Not bad for a machine. This is why Aliens is a fantastic sequel. It defies convention and sets up structure in a way that others should, but don’t learn from, on how to do horror/action/and or sci fi.

    6. Superman II (1981) / Superman (1978)

      Richard Donner cheated here. Both films were made in 1977 with Donner having filmed an estimated 75% of it prior to being removed from the project by the studio. Richard Lester replaced Donner, but to get the credit had to shoot 51% of the material – which meant much in the way of reshoots. While I do feel the Donner cut is superior and the troubled production does create some very interesting continuity errors in the movies, Superman II is quite likely the most remembered of the two movies. This comes down to Terrence Stamp as Zod and Reeves Superman being so much larger than life. It brings the otherworldly nature of Superman into the focus vs. the weird real estate story of the first. If I asked you to quote a line from either of these films easily 90% of people would say “Kneel before Zod” – and that right there is why it makes the list. The *fond* memories of it and how well it holds up 40 years later.

    7. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) / Star Trek: Generations (1994) AND Star Trek: Wrath of Khan (1982) / Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

      Ok this one is kinda a cheat as its the same franchise, but different generations. MP allowed for Khan where they reached into the series and pulled one of the iconic villains and resurrected him into one of the most iconic sequels of all time. The battle of wills and the sacrifice of friends to see it through. Sure the sacrifice was short circuited by another film, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of watching Spock die before your eyes.

      First Contact does similar and brings the analogy closer to Moby Dick (as the movie points out), but does so very well. It’s also the first time TNG really goes “Dark”; meanwhile telling two very different stories successfully. Both of these movies tend to top people’s Star Trek film lists and for good reason.

    8. The Dark Knight (2008)/ Batman Begins (2005)

      Batman Begins is the better comic book movie that remains true to its origins and is an overall better Batman film. The Dark Knight deviates keeping only trappings of comic book worlds but tells instead a gritty crime drama with a villain who is on par cinematicaly with Hannibal Lechter. It is better made as a film, where you could watch it and a movie like Heat in a film study of crime films and while there might be a few eyebrows raised the argument is easy to make.The loss of the more comic book aspects and too much of it shot during daylight do take away from the Batman nature of it, but with its billion dollar gross, near universal fan and critical praise The Dark Knight does need to be acknowledged as one of the great sequels of all time.

    9. Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991) / Terminator (1984)

      What is it with Cameron making superior sequels -ignoring Pirhana II the spawning. In this case he expands on his own universe and gives one of the most financially successful sequels of all time. Terminator 2 largely holds up in every category from then til now even with its early generation CGI effects. There are some that don’t let’s be fair, but it works on a lot of levels in the FX department even now. Much was practical and then we have excellent character development like we saw with Empire Strikes back on how characters changed over time. Terminator gave us a world, a look and a feel. Terminator 2 capitalized on it. The sadness is that none of the sequels gave us John Connor like we were promised from T2’s battlefield shot or even a world as promised by Kyle Reese in the first.

    10. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) / Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

      I have a love for The First Avenger. Of the two movies it is the one I am more likely to watch just because it is a touch more on the feel good components (all things considered) and less on more modern horror shows. It makes me feel in the right ways. That being said, Winter Soldier is without a doubt the best sequel in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even Cinema Sins and Honest Trailers had issues mocking it because much like Dark Knight it is solid film making. What it does better is keep within the strongest parts of its comic book trappings.

That’s my list. While I have a feeling I missed something and didn’t fully explain everything (I’m already at 2500 words) I believe these are the right choices. There were a few who didn’t make the cut. I may get inspired to talk about remakes/reboots in a future post to this. Special thanks to Jessica L. for inspiring this post.

Comment here on AmusedintheDark on Facebook on what you think should be on this list or if you agree or disagree.

Runners Up:

  • The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) / Pitch Black (2000)
  • The Wolverine (2013) / X Men Origins Wolverine (2009)
  • Hellboy 2 The Golden Army (2008) / Hellboy (2004)

Darke Reviews – Best and Worst of 2016

I haven’t tried one of these before, I see some people do top 10, top 5, top 7, or top 11. I see some only do Best, some do best and worst. Let’s face it the movie review game is flooded with people who have their own takes and spins – so might as well take my own right?

Now this list is strictly based on movies I have watched as part of a First Run experience in theatres. So things like Goonies don’t count, nor do direct to DVD purchases.

Best of 2016

This was a hard category, because quite honestly out of the 40+ movies I watched this year most were just good or “ok”, others were completely Meh. Only 10 made it into potential ranking for best movies of the year and that has been paired down to the following 6.

  1. Arrival
    When considering overall production value, mental engagement, visuals, the film making, script, and just concept. Arrival for me has to be the best movie of the year. It may not win in the rewatch category, but it just nails it and is one of the best sci-fi movies this decade (which we’re now 70% through). If this doesn’t get at least a nod for the Oscars I am going to be even further disappointed in the Academy.
  2. Kubo and the Two Strings
    This almost nailed the number one slot. It so beautiful and heartfelt. To date this is Laika’s best film and is absolutely magical. Watching their behind the scenes production videos should make you even more in awe of what was finally released on screen. I have had the opportunity to share it with people who missed it in theatres that “don’t watch animation” and they loved it. Don’t pass this one up.
  3. Moana
    It’s better than Frozen. Full stop, no argument. It is nearly flawless. Frozen shows signs of its 11th hour edits, Moana does not. Granted Let it Go is still a superior, and intensely personal song, to anything in Moana; but I have to give credit to the Princess ‘I want song’ “How Far I’ll go”. While not as personal to me, it still resonated, as does the rest of the movie. The animation is some of the best Disney has ever done and shows how far they are going and how much more that they can do. It is an incredible tight production with a small cast and very focused and directed story. I am hoping Disney takes notes on this one and continues to give us more like Moana.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPAbx5kgCJo
  4. The Witch
    This one stuck with me. It stuck with me hard. I want to say there are not a lot of good witch movies, which is true, but thats doing a disservice to this to limit it so much. There are not a lot of good period horror movies. I suppose it makes some sense as you can’t shoot as cheaply when doing a period piece, but I would love to see other productions follow the footsteps of this one. It isn’t for everyone, but this is a list of what I loved this year and I truly loved the Witch for all it gave me. It made me feel. It made me think. It made me smile at the end. It’s a good film deserving a good watch.
  5. Deadpool
    Not for kids. Awesome movie that I spent laughing from credit to post credit. I am looking forward to the sequel to see if it they caught lightning in a
    bottle or is there a recipe they figured out to make a successful R Rated movie.
  6. Suicide Squad
    I know this is making a lot of peoples worst of the year lists. I’ve watched it in theatres twice, watched the extended edition for a third time. I have to acknowledge it does have flaws, but the DCEU really needs to pay more attention to David Ayer and less to Zack Snyder. He nailed these characters and there’s a lot of effort behind the scenes to really bring them to life. The actors themselves gave it their all and it shows too. With the recent announcement of Gotham City Sirens as a Harley Quinn spin off film with Ayer at the helm I am excited again for a DC movie. I just hope he lets her have more control over the costume this time.

Worst  of 2016

As I said before the ability to pair this list down to the worst of the worst was difficult with so many potential contenders this year. Some were badly made, others bad concepts, some just outright offensive, and two were so below mediocre I couldn’t even bring myself to write about them.

  1. Divergent: Allegiant / London Has Fallen
    It’s a tie!. You’ll notice there is no link to the reviews. These two movies left me with such amazing apathy at how bad they were by comparison to their predecessors I couldn’t even come up with the energy to write about it. To be fair Gods of Egypt almost made the 6th spot. I maintained my boycott and didn’t pay money to see it, but it was on HBO when I was on a work trip and I did watch. Not only did it deserve the boycott, but it was beyond horrific. I have seen better SyFy movie of the weeks.
  2. Mechanic: Resurrection
    This was just such mediocre garbage that tried to pass itself off as an action movie. I have seen student films that look better.
  3. Independence Day Resuregence
    Sometimes sequels are better. Sometimes they are worse. Sometimes they are not needed. Sometimes we just don’t care. No one wanted it. No one asked for it. Ok well not recently. A lot of us wanted to see more back in 1996. Bigger isn’t better. Scaling up isn’t always the way to go. I guarantee you no one wanted to see more of Brent Spiners butt.  If you watch this you will want your time back and ask yourself why it was made.
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
    *sigh*
  5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    I am once again the contrarian. I am seeing this make some folks top 10 lists, and in one case the number one slot. I am asking myself if we watched the same movie.  It moved up the list over movies that were just badly made because it left me irritated. I have to assume that is not the feeling the filmmakers wanted to evoke.
  6. Inferno
    Yeah. So you are probably wondering how this and the number two slot beat out BvS? Because there are moments of brilliance in BvS. There are moments of good action. There are moments of good characters. Bat-fleck is good. Wonder Woman is flipping amazing. This movie though has no brilliance. It is a paycheck for some people and I have to say they did not earn it.  It is the worst made movie of the year because of the budget, the starpower, and former skill level of those involved in the production. They had all the components and clearly threw them in the trash before cooking with them.

Wait where’s Passengers?

It gets it’s own category!

Most Hated Movie of 2016

Passengers
My hate for this film only grows. It’s not just bad it’s patently offensive to anyone with decency – which is clearly not the director or writer. My biggest disappointment with it? It didn’t bomb harder.

 

That’s it everyone. That’s the year.

Agree/Disagree? Tell me your thoughts here or on Facebook!

Darke Reviews | Doctor Strange (2016)

First off let me apologize, as this is not actually a review.

One of the principles of my day job is Integrity without Compromise. So I am left with a quandary –

See a movie that I actually want to see but I know has a problem in it that I have boycotted movies in the past for.

– or –

Not see one of the most anticipated movies of the year and be unable to tell my readers about it.

I am sorry everyone, but I have to stick to my guns on this one. Due to the White-washing of a historically Asian character known as the Ancient One I cannot see Dr. Strange. Yes, Tilda Swinton is an amazing actor. There has been nothing she has done that I haven’t enjoyed her performance. The fault only lays on her for taking the role.

The real problem comes down to Marvel Studios and the writers rationale for doing so. Money. There’s absolutely no morality to the decision, point in fact it’s the opposite of it. I get big business I really do, but that doesn’t mean I have to let them slide on it.

This is where geopolitics comes into play. For those that don’t know China considers Tibet part of China. Tibet does not consider themselves part of China. If they cast a Tibetan actor, they cannot screen the movie in China, the second largest audience for movies in the world.  They can’t make money in China if they cast someone who is actually Tibetan, but if you cast a Chinese actor for the Tibetan role it sends a different (and even worse) message.

So you are left with this decision that is like one of those button push “You get this, but this….”

  1. Cast a Tibetan as the role of the Ancient but now you can’t show your movie in China.
  2. Cast another ‘Asian’ as the role of the Acient but now you’ve invalidated an entire country it’s independence in a tacit manor which to the rest of the world looks as if you are endorsing China.
  3. Cast another ethnicity as the Ancient but be lambasted for not being true to the character.
  4. Cast a white actor in the role and be accused of white washing, but hey you get to release in China.

Marvel chose option 4.

I will not deny the complexity of this decision, it shouldn’t be denied and needs to be appreciated. They are a business and it wouldn’t be just this movie that could be at risk, as China could not allow other movies simply out of spite.

Are there other facets to how they did this to try to mitigate the white washing? Sure. They wrote the character as a title that could come from any culture; but at the same time they keep the original white-savior narrative of Dr. Strange. You know the story, the white guy learns from the wise old insert ethnic group and becomes the savior? The did try to mitigate it, but they didn’t go far enough or brave enough.

If you want to write that it’s not white washed try these tricks

1. He doesn’t go to Asia at all. Shamballah did not have to be terrestrial.
2. The Ancient isn’t white.

Why does it matter so much about a white actor in a role that could have gone to a person of colour?

Please please read this:

Jar Full of Major Characters

or this

Casting Minorities as White Characters is not a double standard. Here’s why

The short version is this:

“When there are so few raisins to start, any change made is really easy to spot, and makes a really significant difference.

This is why it is bad, even despicable, to take a character who was originally a character of color and make them white. But why it can be positive to take a character who was originally white and make them a character of color.

The white characters bowl is already so full that any change in number is almost meaningless (and is bound to be undone in mere minutes anyway, with the amount of new story creation going on), while the characters of color bowl changes hugely with each addition or subtraction, and any subtraction is a major loss. “

But, Jess, you’re white. Why does it matter to you?

Because I have a voice, social awareness and consciousness, and need to speak when I see something wrong.

Because it matters to him: George Takei

So let me get this straight. You cast a white actress so you wouldn’t hurt sales … in Asia? This backpedaling is nearly as cringeworthy as the casting. Marvel must think we’re all idiots,” writes Takei. “Marvel already addressed the Tibetan question by setting the action and the Ancient One in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the film. It wouldn’t have mattered to the Chinese government by that point whether the character was white or Asian, as it was already in another country. So this is a red herring, and it’s insulting that they expect us to buy their explanation. They cast Tilda because they believe white audiences want to see white faces. Audiences, too, should be aware of how dumb and out of touch the studios think we are.”

I do not under any circumstances get to tell him he is wrong or even attempt to invalidate his opinion.

TL;DR?

I am absolutely certain Dr. Strange is a good movie, maybe even great. I won’t know, I cannot give the movie money – nor can I allow someone to pay for a ticket for me.

If you wish to see it, I really hope you enjoy it. Even with movies I hate, if someone loves it I am happy for them. Legitimately so. My opinion and recommendation is just that, mine. I write to share it.

I wrote to share this. I would ask you not to see Dr. Strange, but if you do – enjoy it.

Boycotting a bad movie like Exodus or Gods of Egypt is easy.

Boycotting a good movie is hard.

 

PS.

Suicide Squad made over $700 Million dollars Domestic+World Wide without release in China, and that movie is problematic and divisive as hell amongst fans. I think you could have survived Marvel.

In Memoriam | Gene Wilder (1933-2016)

Please allow me a moment to join the legions who are sharing their thoughts and feelings about the passing of Mr. Gene Wilder.

I debated doing a full review of one of his classics, Blazing Saddles? Young Frankenstein? Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory? All of them so powerful and make up so much of who I am today. This is the comedian I grew up with. Young Frankenstein is one of my earliest movie memories in the comic genre. Blazing Saddles a close second. There’s few children of the 80s who don’t know Willy Wonka. My facebook wall is filled with lyrics from Pure Imagination.

Just yesterday on my way to Suicide Squad with some friends, one of them said “the suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.” My life back in Maryland, you couldn’t go a week without “Put the Candle back.”  In Jacksonville? “Look at my hand. Steady as  rock.  Yeah but I shoot with this hand.” The lines though that define me? That mean the most to me…

“*We* are the music makers… and *we* are the dreamers of dreams”

“Oh, you should never, never doubt what nobody is sure about.”

There are movies, moments in time, and lines that stick with you for your life from the moment you hear them. Let it Go of course is one, but these are the ones that defined who I became. Why I believe in a world where we never stop dreaming. A world in which we question things. Because of the passion this man put into his craft and to this film.

What passion? Well this article from 4 years ago for example: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/part-of-this-world-part-of-another.html

This is a man who knows his craft, who understands what goes into making a character. As a result, and this is hard to argue, he has brought to life one of the most iconic and memorable characters to ever grace the screen. The lines before from Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, sure they are good, but they are made great by Wilder.  He could be anything; a nightmare in human shape, a clown, a scientist, manic, serene, charming, and sublime. I’ve long said the comedic actors do the best in serious films, but Wilder easily did his best in comedy and brought (at times) a level of depth to them that so very few now can even comprehend. He stopped his career when he didn’t see projects he wanted to be associated with. He knew who and what he was and believed in and didn’t go in for the paycheck.

The man behind the camera was just as passionate. When Gilda Radner a righteous powerhouse comedienne in her own right, who also happened to be his wife, died of cancer. What did he do? He went to Congress. He testified and set up a foundation to help make sure no one else went through what she did. Not for him, but for her and the people like her who weren’t getting diagnosed properly. Who weren’t getting treatment.

….sorry had to take my glasses off. They weren’t doing well with the tears. Pardon any typo’s.

2016 has taken more legends from my life than most years I can recall. More people that hit me like a gunshot when I heard the news. Clearly the grisly reaper is mowing.

I know Jim said he was always wanted to go nowhere special, but Gene – you deserve the special. You deserve all the special and I hope that you and Gilda are curled up on a couch somewhere tonight telling stories of the last 27 years to each other.

Know that we loved you Mr. Wilder. Your legacy will never be forgotten. A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, making you and your work some of the wisest we have.

Thank you for all the joy you brought to the world.

We will miss you.

GeneWilder