Darke Reviews | Glass (2019)

I got the year right on the title! Go me. Seriously, it took three release weeks into the year before there was a movie that was even half interesting to review came out. I had zero interest in Escape Room beyond it’s concept, Replicas is a movie that sat on the shelf for two years – which tells you a lot. A Dogs Way Home isn’t my genre nor is The Upside. Glass is the *only* release this week; and next week is The Kid Who Would Be King and Serenity ..no not that one. I miss the years when I could at least count on an Underworld movie coming out in January to liven things up. This really is one of the worst months of the year for movies and the absolute dump slot for studios to put movies that they have no faith in and just hope they break even on.

Did they catch a break with Glass?

Ok my teaser question was spur of the moment forgive me. In all seriousness, I had interest in this film from the moment I heard about the stinger during Split back during it’s release in January of 2017. I never got around to watching that one as M Night Shyamalan has never personally apologized to me for his Avatar The Last Airbender movie and honestly thinks he did nothing wrong with it. Yes, I am that petty. I already know James McAvoy can act circles around people in his sleep and Anya Taylor-Joy is a fantastic young actress. Shyamalan though, he can suck the life out of any performance and remove all joy from the film going experience. He *is* actually a talented director, but I believe he has bought too much of his own hype and when he released The Visit people began to forgive him, then Split made $130 million for a January release making it one of the top January releases ever.  I am thinking that people have once again forgiven too much.

Glass was written and directed by Shyamalan, per usual, and while I must applaud the effectiveness of linking two different, disparate movies into a third film; it rings…hollow. The concept of a truly downplayed superhero/supervillain origin story and meet up in the age of the Superhero movie is actually inspired so please don’t get me wrong here; but this was too downplayed. Shyamalan’s direction is still soul sucking from otherwise talented actors with only McAvoy being able to rise above it due to the nature of the character. Everyone is so dispassionate, so inhuman in their performances I cannot believe for a moment any of them are real people or even facsimile’s of real people. They feel more like twisted analogues of a perception of normal human behavior – even with extraordinary circumstances. It most certainly is his style, it’s just not one I can find appealing.

From a script perspective; there really isn’t anything here either. No one person gets enough time to really be -except McAvoy. He is, still, amazing and honestly deserves better; but if this pays the bills until his next movie so be it. Samuel L Jackson spends a third of the movie twitching, a third absent, and a third just…holding back his natural presence. That’s fine I guess, but again with the script that’s present nothing comes as a surprise to anyone – I mean anyone – paying attention. Bruce Willis continues to try to remember to be human and what joy is, I am sure one day he will, but until then there is Shyamalan movies. Anya Taylor-Joy tries to overcome the script and lack of dialogue of any meaning – when she’s given dialogue; but cannot quite do it. Sarah Paulson, whom I am told everyone loves on American Horror Story, is literally the worst. Based on everyone’s reaction to her and what we know about Shyamalan’s directing and writing skills, I blame him for everything. On the upside her character elicits an emotion from me and that emotion is her character is hair pullingly aggrivating. Her line reads are what you’d expect from table read where the actors are first getting together. The dialogue itself sounds like bad two am self help infomercials. Nothing about her or this script works for me.

TL:DR?

Yeah I guess we’re at the TL;DR already here. Glass is an exercise in frustration. Nuggets of interesting concepts handled by a distracted squirrel on ketamine. As I write my first review of the year, instead of the general ambivalence I felt leaving the theatre, I find myself getting agitated by the wasted effort, acting, and story beats that worked. Looking forward to the rest of the movies this year, I will be surprised if Glass doesn’t make my worst of list.

Not because it’s badly made, because it isn’t. Because I can tell effort was put in, I can tell people tried to overcome Shyamalan and it failed. The movie is bad because effort was put in and this was the final result.

Should I see it?

Go watch Bumblebee if you haven’t or Spider-Man. I can’t tell anyone in good conscience to see this

Would you see it again?

Making me watch this again should be a war crime or would trigger violence. I am not sure which.

Buying it?

Please see above. I am still getting aggravated thinking this much about it

Aren’t you being kind of harsh?

There are many types of bad movies out there.

There are bad movies because no one tried, or they are a clear cash grab that has no soul. There are bad movies because they had a vision, but not a budget and not the skill to overcome it. There are bad movies because they thought they were good; and so on…

This is actually one of the worst types. This is a movie that is bad that has a lot of effort put in by cast and crew. This is movie that had little to no studio interference to make it so. This is a movie with one man at the helm who has a vision and that vision….isn’t a good one. He has talent, but the vision and style has corrupted it. It’s his vision and we should respect that, but to put all this effort in for a final product like this? It’s just frustrating to endure. So please don’t.

I will see you all in a few weeks when the February releases start.

 

Darke Reviews | Best and Worst of 2018

Welcome to the 3rd annual Best and Worst list, I am your hostess, The Vampire Princess.  We have a wallet breaking 48 movies watched in Theatres this year and even more original pictures watched on Netflix. Admittedly nothing from Netflix got a review, which might be something to correct in 2019; as 2018 brought us the above average Bird Box and the near unwatchable Cloverfield Paradox. It would certainly add to the list of reviews, along side the requests that were made back in September.

So here are the rules for this years list:

Rules:

  • Must be a First Run, so no re-releases of an older film
  • Must be in theatres.
  • Boycotted Movies don’t get to make the list – except as a commentary

 

Best of 2018

 

  1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
    At the beginning of the year I never would pegged this as my top movie of the year. Hell up to the day I watched it I never would have pegged it. Watching this however, it was in short a perfect movie. It has heart, great animation, charisma, great characters, enough design to keep artists discussing for months, and all that put into a single package that had no business working but did.
  2. Black Panther
    Before Spider-Man this was the movie. This was THE movie of the year and deservedly so. Both of them give us representation in the hero film genre in a way that we needed, and the box office shows it as one the highest grossing movie of the year and honestly, one of the highest ever. This movie deserves the praise it received and has the most compelling villain Marvel has ever given us, yes including Loki.
  3. Bumblebee
    It’s hard to put this one so high up on the list, but after thinking about it, it has no other place. It could be stated that it’s so high up because it’s so good in comparison to the others, but the reality is it is just good.
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody
    It was more than the movie I thought I was going to get from the trailers and original stories coming out. It was the emotional roller coaster it promised to be; even if it has a tainted production; which moves it down the list.
  5. A Simple Favor
    Really when looking at all the movies this year, this one is one of the top ones to just please me. The characters were compelling, the actors amazing, and I loved watching the evolution of the character arcs to a point I didn’t think Hollywood could give me.
  6. Halloween
    While a Quiet Place almost made this list in this spot, this really was the Halloween movie we have needed for a long time. A complete reboot of the franchise, while still respecting the original. It gave me the fan service I wanted in the nods to the original and some of the sequels, but wasn’t beholden to them. This is also one of the few movies I’ve seen twice this year (in theatre) and thus deserved its spot on the list.

Special Mention: Anna and the Apocalypse

It didn’t make the cut, but remained in the top 10 of my list longer than most. It doesn’t quite have the calibre of pedigree of the other films in the list, but I will be damned if I didn’t enjoy it and still do weeks later and really want people to watch this movie. Aside from Spider-Man this is the only movie on the list to truly put me in my happy place coming out of the theatre, a movie that took away all the pain, nightmares, and weight I feel and just let me enjoy life for a few precious minutes. I can’t really explain why, but it does.

 

Worst of 2018

  1. Mortal Engines
    This movie is one of the biggest cinematic bombs of the year barely even making 10% of its production budget back, excluding the marketing budget. This movie was a train wreck from the top down with pretty visuals. The only thing worse than it in that aspect is…
  2. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
    Simply put this one is just bad, high concept, high cost, poor execution all around. I don’t hate the movie, I was just disappointed. It’s even worse than Mortal Engines because Engines has some redeeming qualities.
  3. Winchester
    The only movie I walked out of this year. Uninspired and boring, yet there are worse. Ones that left me with an emotion a strong one.
  4. Pacific Rim: Uprising
    This one I hate. I couldn’t even get a proper review out to talk about how much I despise this movie and everyone involved in its production.
  5. Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom
    Even worse than the wreck that is Pacific Rim is this garbage fire. Pacific Rim is cheap and stupid. This is quite frankly expensive and offensively stupid and that is the worst sin.
  6. Death Wish
    While the previous entries on this list were bad for production values, acting, ineffectual storytelling, this movie is bad for all of the above AND is offensive to boot. It was absolutely tone deaf and had no business getting a theatrical release. While Pacific Rim and Jurassic irritated me, this one out and out angered me.

Special Mention: Hereditary

While not one of the worst movies of the year by a long shot, it is possibly one of the most overhyped movies of the year. I’ve had plenty of time to think on this one and the ending that everyone found freaky or horrifying I continue to find near laughable. The only thing keeping it off the list of the worst is there is artistry at play and the acting was top notch and no one in that film deserves to be decried for the effort put in. Hereditary is the difference between a movie where people really care about the art and the project, but don’t quite nail the execution and the other six on the list where I find it hard to believe real care was put in.

 

So thats the list. What are your best and worst of the year? Agree or disagree with my list? Discuss below or over on our Facebook page!

Darke Reviews | Bumblebee (2018)

In September 8, 1984 the world had changed for children everywhere with Challenge of the GoBots, …what you thought Transformers was first out of the gate? Nay my friends that didn’t happen until September 17th, but we can see now which one is remembered. Robots that were more than meets the eye filled the airwaves, and Christmas mornings that year as we met characters evocative names such as Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Iron Hide, and Bumblebee. For the next two years these cartoons were a staple in many American households, and those around the world, as new Robots were introduced on both the Heroic Autobots and Evil Decepticons side…all to sell us the toys. In 1986 the world for these children changed again when Transformers the Movie hit theatres everywhere. An updated edgier theme song, a more traditional Japanese animation style, with new characters introduced that looked less like the cars, trucks, and military aircraft we knew and more space aged. That movie also did something no other series dared to do and killed off, KILLED off major characters from the original line. This was so traumatic at the time every child in the theatre I saw it in, myself included, was in tears as you heard the words “Prime, you can’t die…”. It was so traumatic that it also killed the prospects of G.I. Joe the movie from going to the theatre and forced a rewrite of it where they had intended to kill some of its original line of heroes and villains.

For years to come since there has almost always been a version of Transformers on the air, from Beast Wars, to Armada, to Prime, to Cyberverse; all catering to different ages and demographics with different levels of storytelling. In 2007 Michael Bay (stop hissing at his name…yes he earned it, but c’mon), provided us a “Live Action” Transformers the Movie. They solicited the fans for lines to use which gave us hope, as we heard Peter Cullen, the eternal voice of Prime, say “Autobots Transform and roll out”. That may have been the last time the audience as a near collective enjoyed the movie franchise. This was the start of a schism which has infected most of our beloved series to this day where some people don’t mind, the fan boys cry you ruined my childhod, and others wonder what the fuss is about; and even others like them. For my part, the quality degraded sharply with the second film and never recovered and was so bad I couldn’t even watch the last one. Apparently neither could audiences as The Last Knight barely scratched making half its budget back domestically with a mere 130 million dollars, against a 217 million dollar budget.

All of this was an albatross around Michael Bay’s neck to many movie goers who were just tired of the explosions, racism, impossible to understand action sequences, and raw stupidity of the plots. That, was just last year. So when we, as an audience, heard there was a Bumblebee spin off movie we were justifiably nervous, and really just asking

“Why?”

Money of course. Paramount likes money. The franchise, despite critical reception has been profitable. Could they turn it around though after the Bay-formers were losing more and more audience goers? They went to their writers room and found Christina Hodson, who had just worked on the mediocre film Shut In, and the absolutely forgetable Unforgettable. This is cynical me talking, as I think the execs went “Female writers are all the rage, lets get one to write a Transformers movie, how much worse can it get?” The more hopeful me says Hodson had a story pitch and they listened. I know that she was involved before the director was picked which is a really good sign. She put herself into this script and that makes me happy, she wanted to see a girl on screen in this kind of movie, she’s always wanted that and I’m glad because we need that. The movie is a lot slower than the other films and is a soft reboot of the series that I think it needed. The script actually bothers to let the moments breathe and let Bumblebee become the character we, as kids, kinda knew and loved. The studio somehow made a character piece between a Girl and her Robot and I have to tell you folks it works.

Hodsons script and emotional heart to the story is an amazing start, and I can’t wait now to see what she does with the Harley Quinn movie. Travis Knight, our director I think is the other major part that makes this work. Knight is the CEO of Laika entertainment who gave us Paranorman, Coraline, and Kubo and the Two Strings, which Travis also directed. If you have watched any of those movies, you understand that they get what characters mean, they know how to do near perfect emotional beats. His capabilities as a stop motion animator also make him ideal for directing a GIANT ROBOT movie as he can not only visualize the scene but be able to describe and communicate it to his team.  Between Hodson’s story and script and Knights skills, all you need is actors to make a good movie regardless of genre.

Enter Hailee Steinfeld, who exploded into the cinematic scene as Mattie Ross in True Grit, is a singer, and is our Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man. She makes her character of Charlie Watson something few of the humans in any other Transformers film before it did, likable. Charlie is in a rough spot in her life as she turns 18 and is dealing with the unexpected loss of her Dad, her family moving on, and not sure who or what she is. Steinfeld is able to bring the complexity of the character (even if it is a bit tropish) to life and does so against a 12 foot yellow robot. Between the performance of Steinfeld, and the performance given to Bumblebee by the director and animation department, they have humanized this franchise in a way I didn’t think possible at this point.

Speaking of animation department; do you remember when you could watch the fights in movies and understand what was going on? So do I. They were good times. This movie brings those times back. The fights avoid quick cuts and shaky cam instead going for more flowing animation and traditional medium or wide takes to let you appreciate what is going on. The return to the Generation 1 (original) looks for some of the characters doesn’t hurt either. There are even some other 1986 movie references hidden in some of the sequences that made me bounce when I saw them. On top of that rather than fully acting against green screen Hailee was actually able to act against a model of Bee on set so she had something to work with – novel idea. The soundtrack is a best of 80’s alternative and a few others, with one lovely easter egg for Transformers 1986 fans.

TL;DR?

Guys, I never thought I would sat this. It is a good movie. A really good movie. It doesn’t fully divorce itself from the Bay run as much as we might wish it and there are elements such as Sector 7, the Hoover Dam, etc; but it more or less ignores the metaplot that was given to the first five films entirely. Transformers fans, especially G1, will geek out over all the nods from the classic designs to the Transformer sound effect being used through the movie. Caution flag on this though folks, a lot of the G1 stuff is in the opening but its so worth it. The rest of the movie is a much slower and better Transformers movie than we deserve, but definitely needed. The cast is small and you actually do give a damn what happens to them. This isn’t to say they disappoint on the action, when they give you the beats they are good ones and while not nearly as over the top as Bay, are just good.

Bay is an interesting director who has his own style which some may like more than others, but I have to say if this is what Travis Knight can do with a real camera and more than a voice cast, we need to get him in live action more than ever. Also – watching Optimus Prime fight on Cybertron in the opening is fantastic.

Bumblebee is a wonderful nostalgic ride that has a lot of movie baggage to overcome and truly deserves to.

Should I see it?

Honestly, yes. I want this movie to succeed so badly so we can continue to get QUALITY Transformers movies like this. So we can get other 80’s franchises with the right treatment and right care.

Would you see it again?

Maybe not in 3-D, but absolutely even at full price.

How about buying it?

4K baby. In 4K

Alright, which of the releases this month would you see and in what order now that everything is out?

  1. Spider-Man into the Spiderverse
  2. Anna and the Apocalypse – this one gets me alright?
  3. Bumblebee – only in spot 3 because Spider-Man is that amazing and I have a truly weird affection for Anna, or it would be in second place
  4. Mary Poppin’s Returns
  5. Aquaman
  6. I would never see Mortal Engines again. why do you even ask?

My partner and I tonight really liked this movie, it is easily the best live action Transformers movie we have received and handled both the human and robotic characters well; and avoided juvenile humor along the way.

I don’t know what else to tell you, someone, somewhere may have listened and given us what we wanted. We should do them the favour and see this movie.

 

Darke Reviews | Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Chim Chim-in-ey, Chim Chim-in-ey, Chim Chim cher-ee! Lyrics I sing at random to this day. I am sure for others it’s a Spoonful of Sugar, and even others still want to go Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I suppose even some may go dociousaliexpilisticfragicalirupes, but thats going a bit far don’t you think? So with children from the late 50s and early 60’s coming into contact with dear Ol Mary Poppins, to those of us in the 70’s and 80’s thanks to the Wonderful World of Disney, and the advent of VHS its safe to say the original movie has earned its reputation as a beloved classic. We all have the nostalgia glasses on for the original regardless of our feelings now, so the concept of a sequel coming out 54 years after the original is a bit jarring, wouldn’t you say?

Does it still have the magic though?

Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods, Memoirs of a Geisha) , along with his partner John Deluca (Choroegrapher on Chicago and Nine), provided us the screenstory for this and David Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland) wrapped that work up and converted it to a screenplay. They remembered what it was like to have a sense of wonder again, to turn things upside down and look at the world as if it had magic again. The story at times may be a little (a lot) on the nose with some more current trends; there is almost always a sense of the fantastical as the story unfolds. Mary Poppins returns to the Banks family, roughly 20 years after the events of the last film. The Banks family is out of money and time before they lose their home, but our wonderous Nanny comes in to provide some much needed lesson and perhaps a sense of adventure as well. If anything the flaws in the story are that it is just a bit too straight forward in its symbolism and meanings; but when making a movie for children of all ages great and small – is that really a bad thing?

The unfortunate bad thing is that the songs just do not work nearly as well. They aren’t bad by any stretch, but I can’t forsee anyone remembering these fifty years down the line. The movie does go full musical and there are far more songs than I remember in the original, but everyone puts on a good show and I can’t fault that at all. I just wish the dance routines, the songs themselves had just that little something extra to make their magic come alive in the same way the visuals did. You can see the songs that Marc Shaiman (Hairspray, Smash) was going for when he worked out the lyrics and beats for the music and while they are lovely homages to 1964, I can barely tell you any of the lyrics now as I write this review. This isn’t a matter of repetition either, most of us may have only watched Mary Poppins a few times as children but we remember those songs to this day, none of these truly hit that and its a bit saddening.

Emily Blunt of course is practically perfect in every way and was the only real choice for the role. We knew she could sing and dance thanks to Into the Woods, and her class and charm are without question – who else could be Mary Poppins now? She brought the same type of personality that Dame Andrews did, and also remembered how to bring the more subtle, quiet moments as well. Rather than a sweep, we have Lin-Manuel Miranda as a lamp lighter named Jack, who fills the exact same niche that Dick Van Dyke did all those years ago. Miranda has fantastic screen presence and anyone who thinks the man can’t sing or dance should be flogged accordingly; and thankfully he does not try for a cockney accent. Ben Wishaw (Q in the recent James Bond movies) as our grown up Michael (the child from the first film) despite being 38 doesn’t look old enough to be the part of a father of three. It might be a combination of his clothing and his natural youthful appearance but he really does look like a boy trying to be a man. Perhaps that’s the point though? The three children Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson ride that edge of being too much at times, but really do have what it takes to keep the audience endeared to them.  It was nice to see Julie Walters (Molly Weasley you muggle) again, even in the bit role she had; which can also be said for perennial villain David Warner (Tron, Titanic) in a far more pleasant and amusing role as Admiral Boom.

The costuming was amazing. Period. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. When we get into our second animated-live-action hybrid sequence the look and style of the costumes are just so perfect. Overall the entire production design was spot on and let me feel like I was in that early London period. If anything there is a flaw in that it doesn’t feel like sets this time and is more real. Odd thing to call as a flaw. At 2 hours and 10 minutes though it does feel a bit long, but I checked and the original runs 2 hours and 19 so…improvements?

TL;DR

Mary Poppins Returned. From an opening credits of chalk art and matte paintings that reminded me and my partner tonight of vintage Disney, to the time of CINEMA and Audrey and the classics, to the true sense of joy of being a child again (if only for 2 hours and 10 minutes); the movie is absolutely cute. It is charming and nostalgic at the same time without being condescending or manipulative about it. While none of the musical sequences themselves made me want to sing along, coming out of the movie I was light on my feet and was dancing through the parking lot of the theatre.

The movie does lack some of the quieter beats the original held and has some more modern film making flaws cooked into it that would be inescapable, it really is a solid work. It’s a project born of love for the stories of Mary Poppins and a movie from 1964 and it does show in every frame. This is the definition of a family film that could satiate multiple generations and could become a holiday classic at home for some families.

Should I see it?

If what you want is that sense of child like wonder again and a sense of the nostalgic beyond pop culture, you would be well served to see this. I do really believe this is an excellent family film for all.

Would you see it again?

Quite likely, but that would be after seeing Anna and the Apocalypse or Spider-Man again. Still worth a rewatch though.

So you are buying it?

No doubt in my mind.

Anything else on the movie?

I think my estimates on its weekend take are about right, but I do wish people would see this instead of Aquaman. I will also say that the cameo’s by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury brought me to tears, especially Lansbury. Not all of the songs worked for me, but the magic did. This is nostalgia worth experiencing and hit the spot for that sense of wonder.

Also Mary Poppins is a Time Lord. Fight me.

Darke Reviews | Aquaman (2018)

In what seems to be one of the strangest holiday seasons yet, there is yet another early access showing; this time in conjunction with Amazon Prime membership. So far in what is one of the most packed Decembers I can recall where we have Bumblebee, Mortal Engines, Aquaman, Spider-Man, and Mary Poppins all coming within two weeks of each other; all of them have had early showings except Poppins. I think this is combination confidence and ego on the party of Disney knowing the name alone will carry a lot of weight. Steven Spielberg of all people went “I’m out” and moved Alita: Battle Angel to an uncontested Valentines day slot. The others all are all competing for early release positive buzz and need it desperately in the cases of Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Spider-Man as the brand they are representing (DCEU, Transformers, and Spider-Man) don’t have the best track records in the cinema. Spider-Man proved not only to be worthy, but the best animated movie of the year and possibly one of the best Spider-Man movies ever put to screen.

Is Aquaman worthy?

The movie violates my Three Writer Rule out of the gate, with Will Beall (Gangster Squad, Training Day TV series), director James Wan (the Saw, Conjuring, and Insidious series) , and Geoff John’s (DC’s version of Kevin Fiege ie the head of the “movie studio”) having story credit; then Beall and David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Red Riding Hood, Wrath of the Titans) on screenplay. By their powers combined they have created a hot mess. To be fair to them, the work of Snyder before and the Justice League movie didn’t give them as much room as a team coming in fresh and thats where some of the narrative choices come from and were not handled deftly. From a purely cinematic universe standpoint the average movie goer won’t know half of whats going on or missing so I can’t and won’t call them to task. Comparing to the comic is like comparing to a book. Changes need to be made, so be it. What I can call them to task for is trying to do too much and not doing all of it well as a result; with plot threads left dangling, characters who feel like they were supposed to be more important and vanish; and most critically a lack of consequence along the way that really shouldn’t be ignored as the meta narrative of the movie put such an intense focus on rules and ancient laws.

The story itself, isn’t so much an issue. Arthur Curry’s, aka Aquaman, mother was the Queen of Atlantis, made a child with a Lighthouse keeper. Then had to return home or they die. She has a son with the King. This son, Orm, later in life wants to wage war on the surface for indistinct reasons and conspires to do so. Meanwhile Mera, someone loyal to the Queen seeks out Arthur in an attempt to have him usurp the throne and prevent all out war between the surface and Atlantis. A McGuffin must be found to give Arthur legitimacy as he is a half breed and the clock is ticking as Orm advances his plan to become the Ocean Master.

The plot itself isn’t the issue. It really isn’t. It’s the beats and how they were architected, its those hanging moments and characters that vanish and other points that just take away from the whole. Logical fallacies within the world that continually don’t add up. I am not talking the suspension of disbelief that you have to take a heaping dose of for the movie to work, I am talking violating that suspension. The movie does it time and time again; and I am not sure why. Wan is a competent director and writer and has shown to be better than this. I wonder if this is a curse of bigger budget with talented directors ruins them somewhat. There are some truly inspired shots and action sequences in this movie. I’ve been beating up on it thus far and it’s not all bad. There are some really good moments, but not enough of them. There’s some great camera work, but not enough of it.

From an acting perspective, sorry folks, I know Momoa is pretty to look at. He is eye candy for those who enjoy that aesthetic and I appreciate that is the reason many people will go see it. I know he wants to maintain and showcase the ties to the Maori and he does so through the movie more than once; and the Haka at the premier was beautiful. He doesn’t have the charisma to pull this off, or someone told him not to use it. He *should* work as Aquaman, but doesn’t. He comes across as a “Biker Bro” who has powers. He would have been a great Lobo with this performance, but I don’t buy him ever becoming the King of the Sea with it. Amber Heard (Drive Angry, The Danish Girl)  is far more compelling as Mera and is the Mera I know from the material I’ve come across who doesn’t take anything from anyone. Between the two of them there was absolutely no chemistry and I can’t be certain if it was her recent life events in dealing with toxic masculinity and abuse or just it not being there at all. Willem Dafoe phones it in, but its still better than most of the cast. Patrick Wilson (Insidious, Watchmen) is engaging as King Orm and tries, with the script doing him no favours.  Nicole Kidman was allowed to be bad ass as Queen Atlanna, but also seemed vaguely exasperated or confused that she was there.  Also what a waste of a Julie Andrews voice. Black Manta was treated well overall and handled about as well as one can expect.

The production design. This is as about a mixed bag as the rest of the movie is. Bill Brzeski had the unenviable task of creating Atlantis and the other kingdoms of the seven seas. Overall it was beautiful, but at times it was muddled by the motion and camera choices. More wide shots were needed, like the scene in the trailer with the flare and the boat. More awe was needed to show the power, expanse, and majesty of Atlantis – and sadly it wasn’t all there. Costuming, a category I don’t often bring up, fell to Kym Barrett, who was nominated for over a dozen awards for her work on Cloud Atlas. She also worked on the Matrix and Speed Racer. She did create original designs or was able to successfully translate comic designs to film in almost every case. Mera’s costume during one scene was literally the most inspired I’ve seen for an aquatic movie. Mera’s costume the rest of the movie left me confused. The clothing was theoretically designed to be form fitting, but quite regularly there were gaps between clothing and skin that were really glaring to me; almost as glaring as the High Heels.

The woman who lives underwater is wearing high heels.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Don’t even get me started on the red wig they had her in. In a rare moment, let me say Justice League treated her better than the movie she was the main player in. Don’t believe me? Look. Also please note the superior costume for Justice League – which takes place before this movie.

Justice League Promo

Justice League

Aquaman. Look at that Natural Red

I want to  rant about the music being odd and switching between the current trend of 80’s Synthwave, standard scoring, and weird Pop songs in the movie I haven’t seen outside of a YA movie or Evanescence in Daredevil back in the day; but this review is already getting too long.

TL;DR

Surprisingly, despite its laundry list of flaws the movie still manages to be somewhat entertaining. It isn’t as patently offensive as Man of Steel has become to me, or BVS, its production values exceed that of Justice League; even if the story beats and acting are rougher. It isn’t as good as Suicide Squad (to me) and definitely not in the league with Wonder Woman. There is a movie here begging to be made to be made well, another pass on the script, another wave of clean edits, a second look at the costuming and music all could have elevated this uncontested into the #2 slot of the DCEU.

Instead we get something just above mediocre through raw effort on everyone’s part that is not more than the sum of its parts, but isn’t falling apart either. A series of baffling decisions both in and out of narrative leave me wondering about the motivations of the characters and why I should care at all. Just a few lines of dialogue here or there really could have solved more than a few of this movies problems so it’s other issues wouldn’t have been as glaring.

Should I see it?

I can tell you no. Most people are going to ignore me and go “But Momoa is pretty.” So I won’t even bother. When this comes out next week it will be competing with a Mary Poppins sequel and Transformers movie, both of which will be reviewed when I see them before this ones release.

Currently the verdict is:  If you were going to see it regardless of this review I hope you enjoy it. I truly truly do. There’s more than a few moments to enjoy and I did have a good time, but I might have had that same good time watching it home later.

So not seeing it again then?

No. I’ll be seeing Spider-Man and Anna and the Apocalypse at a minimum before seeing this again.

Buying it?

*deep sigh* Maybe. Probably. Again its deeply flawed, I have trouble giving it a firm recommendation, but it’s not dumpster fire. Wow….my bar for the DCEU is low.

Anything else to add?

It’s a solid filmmaking effort, and I can see that effort was put in. They tried. Tried and failed on a lot of points, but they tried and I have to give them credit for that. No one in the crew phoned it in and the director did all he could saddled with five prior films of baggage that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The mistakes in the film shine like spotlights to me but may not to most audiences so there’s that in the movies favour.

Aquaman was the most joked about member of the Justice League for decades. His movie could have been far worse so I will take it for what it is.

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

From the moment I saw this trailer I wanted to see this movie. I am a theatre geek to begin with, so musicals are always a soft spot. I am THE Horror fan at my job, but one of my employees is a close second, as such Zombies get my attention. I am a sentimentalist and thus a good charming Christmas movie with a twist is always touching. What happens when you mix the three into a single movie? You get Anna and the Apocalypse. What appears to be the perfect blend of the comedy I like, a solid musical in the vein of High School musical, and zombies.  This absolutely should not work.

 

 

But did it?

The movie is a product of Scotland, a country that every day I am considering trying to import myself into, which also gave us the fantastic film Let Us Prey. The writers are also products of Scotland, with Ryan McHenry and Alan McDonald in their first big release in their own country, much less globally. Director John McPhail is getting his first shot at wide screen title as well. The story is as simple as the trailer provides you, where a zombie apocalypse hits a sleepy coastal town in Scotland around Christmas. Anna and her friends have to make it to their school from across town amidst the chaos and undead to find their friends and family and hope for an evac from the local military.  That’s it. The plot couldn’t be more simple, but there is an elegance in the simplicity as the writers were able to focus and spend time on the characters as they deal with the undead, their own lives, and the burdens of growing up. Along the way there is full on musical numbers that are absolutely catchy and I haven’t stopped listening since I left the theatre.

On the topic of the musical beats, at first I thought they were non diagetic, which means that they aren’t “actually” happening in camera and are more traditional to a musical; but there are a few beats that make me question that to the point the movie may actually be having these absolutely absurd sequences happening real time. I honestly like that in this case. It takes the movie with a wink and a nod and brings you along with the fun. Some of the sequences and songs reminded me a bit of something I would see in Rocky Horror Picture Show, while others went full Disney, and even others went full Edgar Wright. Again I am ok with it, because while I can see these influences (due to seeing so many movies) they make it work and also make it their own. The film makes a few obvious references to Shaun of the Dead and this is worthy as you could almost consider this a spiritual successor to that film; and it is also clear to me that McPhail took more than a few influences from Edgar Wrights style of directing. This is something to be encouraged as we need more Wrights in the world and what he brings to the table with his cuts, editing, and camera work.

I in a rare instance get to talk about the singing and performance of our actors. Starting with our titular character Anna, played by Ella Hunt. She’s the perfect lead for this as she is both warm and engaging and her vocals are right in the range that I find pleasing. She gives a truly “human” performance as her character goes through the story and then is screen capturing when she gets her solo songs. Sarah Swire, who plays Steph, and gives the movie some positive Queer representation, has some great moments, but her vocals are just absolutely powerful and as good as Hunt is, Swire’s range and power is incredible. The other main players, Malcolm Cumming, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, and Marli Sui all do good jobs, but none of them quite stand out the way Hunt and Swire do. Wiggins, as his character Nick, gets a pretty good “hero” solo in the movie but the character is unlikable so it’s hard to enjoy as much as would be potential if he wasn’t such as knob. The surprising performance comes from Paul Kaye, as Headmaster Savage.  Game of Thrones fans will know him as Thoros of Myr; I thought he was doing his best impression of Bill Nighy to the point I couldn’t recognize him. He even had Nighy’s mannerisms and vocal ticks down in a few scenes so I can’t say if it was intentional or I just need to watch more of Kaye’s work. His songs give me the most feeling of something from Rocky Horror, not in theme but range, tone and style.

For my Gore hounds, I think you will be satisfied with this movie as the effects are good and beautifully practical. I think they could have gone further, true, but they struck a balance with the rest of the tone of the story. My theatre geeks will probably enjoy the overall production and beats and even the stage like performances for songs like Human Voice and Hollywood Ending. The Disney like “I want” song, “Break Away” has a great hook and a damn near addictive property with Hunt, Swire, and Cumming’s leading vocals. The camera work beyond the musical numbers is absolutely solid and shows more command than I’ve seen out of a dozen Hollywood films this year with some great intentional shots and use of motion.

 

TL;DR?

The hype for this one is real folks. I had a blast watching this as did the audience that was there, small as it was. Beyond the funny beats being my kind of funny, the music being well above the average we’ve gotten used to; the movie has one major thing going for it. It’s charming as hell. It isn’t full comedy guys, there’s a real story to it that plays out and you feel with the characters as it unfolds. There is absolute heart here and it shows in the love and care from writing, directing, cast, and crew.

Anna and the Apocalypse, will be in my permanent rotation going forward for my Holiday movie watching.

Should I watch it?

If you can. The movie has gotten a limited release here in the US, but if you have a showing in your area take the opportunity. For my less Horror inclined, I don’t think the movie offers much in the way of the scares or the spooks and I think it is really accessible for wider audiences if you can handle the more gory beats.

It isn’t perfect. There’s a few things I am not a fan of, but they don’t detract enough from the overall for me to degrade my recommendation.

Would you watch it again?

In theatres. At full price. No regrets

Buying it?

How else am I going to put it in my rotation? I’m even getting the soundtrack.

Are you going a bit overboard here?

Ok I’ve had a shite week. Like full on rubbish. This movie put me in a happy place with how genuine it felt and refreshing it was. It’s not mainstream by any stretch, but I don’t think it should be. It’s right where it belongs and the only thing it deserves is reciprocation of the love that the Cast and Crew clearly put into it.

Now excuse me while I see if I can put an Anna cosplay together.

What a time to be alive.

 

Darke Reviews | Mortal Engines (2018)

I have to admit the trailer for this one got me interested. While Steampunk and Dieselpunk are not my preferred Gothic aesthetic, I always appreciate my brothers and sisters in the alternative clothing. Drawing from bygone era’s with a significant fictional embellishment shows a certain passion and commitment that has to be appreciated, even if the mainstream looks down on it or tries to market it and co opt it. The movies trailer hinted at this with gigantic moving cities beyond anything rationally (or physically) being able to be engineered. Without a single image, if I told you that there was a city of a hundred thousand people moving about on tank treads so large that a person could stand between each spoke of the tread and it moves around a post apocalyptic/nature reborn landscape capturing other cities for resources – you have a visual in mind. Immense. Grand in scale and scope and absolutely fantastical. Then I am going to tell you the movie is writen and produced by Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, and Fran Walsh who gave us the impossible to film Lord of the Rings.

How can this not be amazing to watch?

First, you must understand that this is not an original work, but instead based on a 2001 childrens book by Philip Reeve. Based on the length of the book and the overall content this falls into another YA adaptation in another Hollywood attempt to find their new Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight franchises. That doesn’t stop it from being a passion project for the three writers either, but it must be acknowledged that the studio wouldn’t greenlight something this ambitious unless they think it can sell.  The story is barely more complex than I covered in my preamble to the review, with the character beats missing. The world has been ravaged by a hyper-technology war some hundred years from our now, and a thousand years before the movie starts. We have a young girl (of course), Hester, who is trying to assassinate a high ranking member of the city of London, Valentine, who killed her mother. A young man (of course), Tom, intervenes and they both end up outside the city.  Hester spends her time trying to return to the city to finish her vendetta, Tom tries to return home, meanwhile our mustache twirling Valentine has a much darker plan with lost technology in his bid for power and resources.

As plots go, it’s basic at its core; which is fine when you have YA material. This is not an insult to YA material, which is specifically designed to be basic and accessible and is a good thing. When translating it to a movie, it can also be a good thing, if done well. I cannot say that this was done well. The plot isn’t really the problem, but the script is. There are no less than a dozen characters we’re expected to emotionally attach to at one point or another and the movie gives most of them at best four or five lines; whilst our main characters are rather dull or unlikable. Even worse, our heroine for the movie is ridiculously inconsistent with her logic and actions to the point I was rolling my eyes half way through the movie. I don’t really expect a lot, but consistency would be nice. You literally have a beat at one point in the movie where she looks at Tom and goes “I would have left you.” Not even five minutes later, she risks her life and anothers more than once to save him. Now I could take it as her trying to be strong and aloof and saying one thing, but believing another; but the movie never gave me reason to believe that she would have saved him. Beyond that there’s script beats where I was able to look to my companion tonight and go “Cue scene…” and it would happen. After the movie she went “even I knew it was coming”. This is being stated by someone who until recently didn’t get to see a lot of movies on the regular. The beats are that telegraphed. Then of course there are the braindead moments and even other higher moments of logic fails that I can’t get into for spoiler reasons but someone, somewhere should have went – this is a stupid decision for the character to make/say/do.

From the actors, they do what they can with the material. Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar plays our heroine and she tries. She really really tries, but it just doesn’t work; but I don’t know that I can blame her. Robert Sheehan, (Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Geostorm) is our Tom and again does his best, but there’s nothing in the direction or script to help him. Hugo Weaving is Valentine and I am not sure if he was aware he was on camera or thought he was in rehearsals still because it just was not good for him; he might have been dead at the time and that would explain a lot. (Note: Hugo Weaving is not dead…this is a joke). Jihae, who I’ve never heard of before, is one of our secondary characters and is far more interesting than any of the mains and I’d like a movie about her please. Leila George (Mother May I Sleep with Danger)  is another secondary character, Valentine’s daughter Katherine, who the script and editing did no favours to.

This brings us to our director, Christian Rivers. Rivers worked on the art department as a storyboard artist for all of Jackson’s previous films all the way back to the Frighteners in 96 and Dead Alive in 92; though never credited as such. That concerned me a bit so I had to go find an interview to prove he was real and not a Jackson alias. I admit I am still not sure. He isn’t that good. Sorry but all the performances are barely delivered and that falls on him. The blocking, staging, camera angle choices, weird whip pans, all of it just don’t work. Even JunkieXL on music seemed to be phoning it in with his left overs from Justice League and Catwoman. I know I ripped on Robin Hood a bit a few weeks ago for stealing scenes from other movies shamelessly, but they did it and turned those scenes to an 11. This lifts from some of the Star Wars movies and doesn’t even do anything interesting with it.  The editing is…painful. I think there are 15 to 20 minutes on the cutting room floor and you can feel it.

TL;DR

This movie is bad. It is visually interesting, but very very bad. At an annoying level of bad. You may hear of things called Script Doctors who come in and polish scripts. This movie needed a team of trauma surgeons. Someone should have taken a second or third look, but wait the producers were Jackson, Walsh and Boyens so they had the creative control too. Ugh. Ok…so time to bust out a meme.

Peter Jackson

You gave us the Lord of the Rings trilogy and it was magical. Truly changing the face of the fantasy film genre forever. Changing how Hollywood should look at making movies and the importance of well crafted practical effects and the effort put in to make something more than just a movie, but feel like a real lived in world. You reminded us of King Kong, and we forgave you the dinosaur stampede, but let us remember that Beauty Killed the beast and it too was breathtaking. Then, then came the dark times. The Hobbit trilogy where you became obsessed with technology and forgot the practical. You have become what you once fought against. This movie cements your fate, stop now while you still can.

This movie will not satisfy movie goers or fans of the book. It’s a mess.

Should I watch it though?

Go see Spider-Man.  Seriously, My friend was entertained because it was visually interesting and I can’t argue that, but the more I discussed it with her, the more annoyed with the movie she became. It’s that kind of movie.

Would you watch it again?

Go see Spider-Man.

Buying it?

Nope. Seriously folks. I said this movie was going to get destroyed by Spider-Man and I felt bad for Peter Jackson…I don’t now. This movie deserves its demise. I do feel bad for the actors and hope their careers aren’t hurt by this.

Anything else to add?

So I didn’t cover this in the review, because it is not objectively about the movie as given. I also don’t typically touch on the adaptation from the book to screen as I haven’t often read the book to compare; but while researching this review I found an interview that honestly makes me even angrier at Jackson than I was after seeing the movie.

In the book Hester is described as having a prominent, grotesque scar across her face that had also taken an eye and severely damaged her nose; to quote:

“Her mouth was wrenched sideways in a permanent sneer, her nose was a smashed stump, and her single eye stared at him out of the wreckage, as grey and chill as a winter sea.”

This is what we got:

 

Now, as someone who loves Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lanister, I know he is not as described in the book facially. This is problematic. I acknowledge this. He also turns out a good performance and still provides representation for a marginalized group.

This change however, less forgivable as this is why it was made from Director Christian Rivers and producer Peter Jackson:

It’s fine in the book for Hester to be described to be ugly, hideous, and have lost a nose ‘cause, even that, you reimagine it in your own mind as, ‘Okay, yeah, she’s ugly, but she’s not really ugly,’” Rivers explained. “Tom falls in love with her… and film is a visual medium. With a book you can take what you want and reimagine it in your head and put together your own picture. But when you put it on film, you are literalizing it. You are making it a literal thing, so it was just finding a balance where we need to believe that Tom and Hester fall in love. And her scar does need to be disfiguring enough that she thinks she’s ugly — it can’t just be a little scratch — and I think we’ve struck a good balance of it.

First off, and I mean this with all professional kindness – Go jump face first into a chipper shredder. Take your ableist BS with you. You are literally saying we couldn’t leave her disfigured as written because then the audience couldn’t buy someone falling in love with her. Have you ever read a book? I mean it seriously. When an author gives you a description, especially one as clear and visceral as Hester’s, you DONT reimagine it to make it more palatable unless you are trash. You imagine what was written and if not clear may think the right eye or the left, but the aesthetic of it remains as a horrifying accident induced scar. Something millions of people have and in this interview you worthless garbage you said they aren’t worthy of love.

Christian Rivers. Go to hell. I’ll give you a map.