Darke Reviews | It: Chapter Two (2019)

It’s no secret how much I loved IT 2017 as that review attests. I didn’t go back and read the book to see what was different and a thousand people did their videos on what was different between that movie, the mini series, and the book. Even now as I write this I know there are a thousand people writing their scripts for the differences between the book and the movie. As I mentioned in the original review, I don’t care. This review won’t compare the original series or the book as all three are different styles of creation which would be unfair to compare against one another. King can spend a hundred words or more for a single description, both series and movie can do it with a single frame, held for two seconds. King has the luxury to explore the depths of psyche and depravity in a way that no Made for Network TV could conceive of, especially in the wake of the 80s and early 90s. Even now such material would be found on streaming content, cable, or premium cable to really go there. So thus book and mini series cannot truly and fairly be considered rivals, just as the mini series is a product of its time and capabilities this movie is a product of its and needs to be judged appropriately.

Does it continue the story of IT Chapter 1? Are questions answered? Are the required plot beats hit from the original material to progress the story? Is it scary? Is it visually interesting? Do the actors feel like they are the grown up versions of the children they had been? Does the ending feel like a good conclusion?

Or…should IT have not come back?

Certain credits remain in place, which might seem obvious considering the $700 million global haul it took on a $35 million budget, but Hollywood does stupid things all the time. Look at Dark Phoenix bringing back the writer of the most maligned X-men movie to write…the same movie. Gary Dauberman comes back as the writer to finish out the story, with a brief stint putting out the Nun, Swamp Thing for DC, and Annabelle comes Home in the meanwhile. Thanks to maintaining that same writer, the movie has a consistency with the 2017 release that keeps the flow going, and with it being an adaptation much of the material is there. Dauberman has perhaps one of the more unenviable tasks in this production as he has to adapt the unadaptable with some significant deep lore from the book that the series couldn’t touch and he has to decide what if anything to keep from that lore. I don’t disagree with most of his decisions. Point in fact some decisions made are so well done they almost make me overlook some of the flaws in that script (possibly editing, hard to tell). Which does mean there are flaws. The movie needs a few trigger warnings and while…thematically accurate I am not sure it was needed or could have been altered to not be as rough. I will discuss more on that in the TL;DR section. Some of the jokes could have been toned back or removed and left only for the villains to tell; mostly weight based ones for the record. I’m also not 100% on a beat from the end, but I will let it ride for now. Overall the screenplay does everything it needs to and shines where it must.

Which brings us to director Andy Muschietti, who has done nothing between the movies which is probably a good thing for the man directing this. He makes plenty of brilliant choices here and absolutely nails drawing the performances from the cast; but the flaws that might be in Daubermans script or in the editing must land on him. You can’t make certain references to objects, places, or phrases if you never set them up successfully. The movies near three hour running time does as well. There are at least two full scenes which could be struck from the movie and it wouldn’t have an effect on the overall plot for all that they did. While they may be canonical and something folks would like, it added nothing with some of the changes made to accommodate them. The trick to superior editing is removing a scene and if it doesn’t change the flow or narrative in any significant or character driven/growth way then it could be cut. It may seem I am being harsh on him, but I am really pleased with the overall product, but the parts that detract fall on him.

What doesn’t detract is the acting.

McAvoy and Chastain are well known and more than capable of playing the adult versions of Bill and Bev and they nail it. Bev is missing something I think, but that might be screenplay or editing failing not Chastain. This also marks their third appearance together in a movie as near as I can tell. Jay Ryan is hard to tear your eyes away from as the adult Ben Hanscom, meanwhile James Ransone (Sinister) brings it as an adult Eddie Kaspbrak. Andy Bean (Swamp Thing) nails the adult performance of Stanley Uris ridiculously well, you feel like you are really looking as if he grew up and looked the same just taller. Isiah Mustafa (Shadowhunters) gets the Mike Hanlon as an adult and brings all the desperation and depth he needs to bring everyone back to Derry after 27 years. All of them are good, if not great, they brought their A games and no one phoned it in in the slightest, but we need to talk about Bill Hader (SNL, Superbad). His Richie, his performance is absolutely next level. Some might say he wasn’t particularly funny and I would say they missed the point because those jokes were meant to fall flat. This mans acting is just through the roof and continues to bring the film back together in a way that makes the stakes seem so real for these adults. The same comes for the kids who are back to reprise their own roles for different angles on scenes we know and scenes we never saw, Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie), Sophia Lillis (Bev), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), and Finn Wolfhard (Ritchie) get the most shining moments with Wolfhard getting an absolutely powerful scene that will surely be overlooked by most.

This is where Muschietti shines everyone. These performances require actors who are above the par, but it also requires a director who knows all of his stuff to get the performances I saw. Now I didn’t mention Skarsgard in th acting section relegating him to the technicals, but this isn’t his story this is theirs. He’s there. He does his thing. He is legitimately scary at times, but Chapter Two is all about the kids, the adults, trauma, and coming home again. While most of the work around Pennywise this time is good, some of the forms and threats just don’t look as clean as they could and another pass, another rendering effort could have taken them a step in the right direction towards ideal completeness. Of course, that doesn’t stop this movie from having raw nightmare fuel left, right, and center that was generated in a computer. There’s enough to keep some folks up at night that doesn’t involve clowns trust me.

TL;DR?

It: Chapter Two does everything it set out to do. It completes and concludes the story of The Losers Club and Pennywise the dancing clown. There are laughs to be had, there are jumps, and there are tears. There is real and imagined horror through this movie from the opening scene to the bruises on adult Bev’s arm that never go away during the length of the film. Growing up in a small town not too dissimilar from Derry, I can see coming back to town and walking through it to see what changed and what hasn’t and sometimes that’s terrifying in its own right.  Facing your past can be its own fear and making your own future as well. The movie is able to successfully hit all of these beats, plus never ceases to have a level of tension and did I just see that moments through it.

Knowing that Dauberman and Muschietti deviated from both the book and the original mini-series adds its own level of tension. If you know either of those incarnations you know things that will happen, but as proven they are willing to change things. So when the title credits begin with a WB logo surrounded by the deadlights, you can’t be sure *how* they will interpret scenes. What will their take on the Chinese Restaurant look like? The library? The final form? Who lives, who dies? It’s all up in the air and that is a magic all its own.

Should I see it though?

Yes. Absolutely Yes. Why aren’t you watching it yet? Go home. Watch it.

That said…I need to dip into spoiler(ish) territory out of respect for all of my readers needs for some potentially unexpected triggers.

  • Trigger Warning: Abuse of LGBT persons in the opening scene. Its a bit hard to watch, even harder thinking some people might be cheering it on.
  • Trigger Warning: Suicide. It is done as well as you can do that scene, but much as I didn’t know about the one in A Star Is Born, I must give my readers the warning if they have never seen the mini series or read the book.

Would you watch it again?

Even with the three hour running time? Yes. Yes I would. Lets go. Big screen. Big sound system.

You’re going to buy it aren’t you?

I am curious to what the box set will look like on my shelf. Yes.

Is it as scary as the first? 

Hmm I don’t think so. Sorry to say, part of the fear of the first is the initial shock value of what they did and the kids in peril. This focus on the adults and us knowing Pennywise, does take away some of the terror. That’s more or less like Alien vs Aliens. You will never be as afraid of the Xenomorph as you were in the original, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own level of terror.

Any parting thoughts?

It does run a bit long and hits a Return of the King type ending sequence, but beyond all of that this will be and should be a very well received film in my opinion. I do think that Mike isn’t treated particularly well by the script or the film and there’s some opportunity there; some of the CG could be cleaned up – but again this is about as good as you can do with the amount of material needing to be adapted.

Also three of the cast (McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader) were in Disappearance of Elanor Rigby together…the hell?

Darke Reviews | Ready or Not (2019)

Hey everyone, it’s been a few weeks since there’s been a review. I’ve had a lot of real space issues recently, from the AC going out in my house in Arizona on the night I saw Hobbs and Shaw, to the death of a family member the night I saw Scary Stories to tell in the Dark. Short reviews on both of them right now. Hobbs and Shaw was ridiculous in concept, execution, acting and was everything the trailer said it would be. If you saw the trailer and went ‘thats my kinda movie’ then you should have seen it by now. For Scary Stories, it too delivered what it promised, a teenager (no younger) appropriate horror film directed by the man who did Autopsy of Jane Doe and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Again if this wasn’t enough to get you there it may not be for you, but I enjoyed it for what it is. That of course brings us to Ready or Not.

 

NOTE: This is the R Rated trailer, its NSFW.

 

Ready or Not? Should you come?

This is a Fox Searchlight picture, which is 20th Century Foxes indy arm of production, but also the one that gave us most of their award winners such as The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Black Swan, 12 Years a Slave, and Birdman. This is not those movies. This is one where a director and writer with an idea went “can you fund us please?” and someone in this arm went “yeah ok sure”. Writers Ryan Murphy and Guy Busick (Urge  – not the Purge), put their past experiences together and delivered the story of a young woman marrying into a ultra rich family with strange rituals and a penchant for taking a game a bit too far. This is a movie that if it did not take inspiration from the great You’re Next I would be surprised, but easily will sit on the shelf next to it. Giving us an ultra rich family, psychopathic tendencies, and a final girl who is all too human. In the production notes for the movie I found this bit pleasing

Screenwriter R. Christopher Murphy muses that “with Grace we are turning on its head the horror genre trope of the ‘final girl;’ where in many horror films, you have a cast of innocents stalked by one psycho and one final girl remaining to challenge the killer. But in READY OR NOT Grace is the only intended victim, one whom several people are hunting.”

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (Southbound, Devil’s Due) and Tyler Gillett (Southbound, Devil’s Due) despite being relatively new to the game show some good decision making behind the camera. They effectively take some very very horrible people and bring out the charm in them so that while yes, you want them to die its not because you just want them off camera. Many slasher films of the late 80s to today have forgotten that where yes, you look forward to horribly people dying, but usually its just to get them to shut up. Here the near buffoonery of the performances keeps the wretchedness of the people from being completely overwhelming to the point of distraction. The humor that punctuates the movie is entirely within character and keeps the tone light enough to breathe between some of the more intense scenes. The directors also brilliantly remember that unlike many horror and action movies injuries matter and simply putting a bandage on it does not stop the pain.

Granted they may give the direction, but the actors need to sell it. Samara Weaving (The Babysitter, Mayhem), niece to the incredible Hugo Weaving, is a heavy weight in the film and can deliver. Every reaction felt naturalistic and held its continuity to the story, the experience and her character Grace. You might be saying “Yeah that’s acting”. To that I point you at the last abomination they called a Die Hard movie and compare it to the original. What is expected of Weaving here is not exactly a small feat to pull off for 96 minutes but she does it.  Not only that she had a voice and made sure the directors were true to the character.

Co-director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin remarks, “Sam made it important to herself, and to all of us, that the movie not get repetitive and that there be an arc for Grace. We were so grateful for her attention to detail from moment to moment.”

Adam Brody (The OC, Shazam!), as the brother in law Daniel takes what otherwise what would be a one note character and gives it a few layers; mostly through alcohol and dry wit, that keeps you watching him when he’s on the screen. The rest of the cast, which is the rest of the family is absolutely fine. Every last one of them has a distinct personality; but is more than their personality trait – another lost lesson in film-making within the genre. I have to believe Melanie Scrofano (Wynonna Earp) made her character Emilie’s weapon of choice the pistol for pure humor value, or the directors did and she ran with it.

From a technical perspective, there’s some nice use of camera techniques that help tell you what is going on as much as whats within the frame; though some of the musical cues are a bit too on the nose for my tastes. This may be been a de-constructive attempt by filmmakers, but it didn’t quite stick as well as everything else did. There’s a lovely mix of practical and CG gore through the movie, but the practical as expected reigns supreme. With the previously mentioned 96 minute running time, including credits, the movie moves are a brisk but not a wasted pace that keeps advancing the plot without the need for anyone to have their IQ drop to do so.

TL;DR?

I enjoyed this movie. Like a lot. I am hard pressed to tell you its a horror movie, but I am jaded in that space. There’s gore, there’s the hunting of a person, but this is more like the cool aunt to the action movie genre. Slightly less action, but willing to go the extra on the violence, the language, but not sacrificing story to do so. I mean sure there’s other horror elements to the movie, but to me horror is something intended to scare – and this just doesn’t have it. It has a good plot, decent tension, great acting and solid directing.

I mentioned You’re Next earlier and it would fit well there, or perhaps with something like No One Lives or Even Lambs Have Teeth. Not quite scary enough for me to call Horror nor actiony enough to fit in that genre, its solidly between the two and it belongs there as the directors and writers knew what they wanted, released a trailer promising that thing, and finally delivered on it and even had a bit of restraint in doing so.

Should I see it though?

Like I said, I enjoyed this. My Dark Court enjoyed it and neither of them are into the genre – so that’s saying something. If the trailer looked remotely entertaining to you throw the dice and play the game

Would you see it again?

Yeah. You buying?

Uh…no, but will you buy it?

Oh totally. This will get played a few times a year when I am in the mood for a solid Final Girl type movie.

Parting thoughts on this one?

Go to a theatre with an alcohol license, while you don’t need it to have a good time – it somehow fits. Or maybe a nice glass of Chianti.

Was that a spoiler?

No; but if I hate myself enough I will watch Angel has Fallen later this week and write a review on that. Though if it’s as bad as London has Fallen it probably won’t be worth a review.

You didn’t write a review for London has Fallen because it was so dull.

You understand my point then.

For now, I leave you with the fact that THIS despite it’s midweek release in August is one of the more fun movies I’ve had this year and definitely one of the more entertaining in the genre, and a note from Costume Designer Avery Plewes

When making a genre movie, “Don’t send things to dry cleaners. It never goes over well; they will get freaked out, no matter how well you know them.”

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | The Lion King (2019)

How precisely are we going to discuss the Lion King going forward? You can’t really call this the live action one. It’s not the hottest take I know I know. I could poke fun if you say the 94 one is the original and pull out the receipts about Kimba the White Lion. That wouldn’t be entirely fair, no one consciously ripped off of a thirty year old animated TV series when they made the Lion King, but it’s disingenuous to say that the animators, writers, or even actors weren’t taking some childhood inspiration from it. Writers today might incidentally crib from Stephen King, Clive Barker, John Carpenter, some random episode of Silverhawks, He-Man, or Thundercats. The things we watch as children carry on and inspire creatives today. I couldn’t escape some of the dialogue from The Last Unicorn if I tried and I wouldn’t want to. Wanna bet me that “That’s what heroes are for” is going to make it into one of my stories or more than one? All of that said we have a Lion King twenty five years later.

Should it have stayed in the shadows?

Let’s sit down and chat about the writing. We have of course the “characters” credit you may see. This is just giving credit to the original writers, Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts, and Linda Woolverton. The story credit on 2019 goes to Brenda Chapman, who was one of 27 (!!!!) writers credited on the original, but ultimately she also gets the Story Supervisor thus making it hers for this one, while the three previous names were the “screenplay” credits. Wow that’s convoluted. There is however a new credit for Jeff Nathanson (Speed 2, Rush Hour 2, Pirates 4); who apparently is a script doctor that gets a lot of uncredited work on movies like Twister and the original Rush Hour. If this man is a script doctor please take away his license to practice. Mister Nathanson, you literally took the script from the original word for word and ….did nothing with it. Wait, you did. You changed the dialogue on a handful of scenes that are iconic and changed them for the…lesser. You did nothing. Nothing else.

Jon Favreau the director who brought us Iron Man and the Jungle Book, but also Cowboys & Aliens does not escape my ire. Much like Nathanson you did…nothing. You were a glorified parking lot attendant telling people to go to the place they already knew to go. Your storyboard was the original movie and you didn’t deviate from it. Except, when you did. In those decisions you took a tight 88 minute movie and made it 118 minutes with nothing new to show for it of any measure. Except I don’t think you got a say in it, hence the traffic attendant with some producer at Disney saying “Do this exactly as we tell you and we will fund your next movie”. As the director, you are responsible for the look of the shots and the performances of your actors, but add a musical and now you are responsible for how those songs play out. To borrow from a greater movie, when you are called before your maker and asked why you did something, “I Was told thusly” is not sufficient. Mr Favreau, Jon…Jon you ruined one of the great Disney villain songs. (Side note comment on the post here on FB if you want me top 10 disney villain list). How do you ruin one of the easiest songs? I mean Aladdin didn’t include theirs, but you actually…ruined yours. Then your ballad,…I want you to look at the lyrics, Now look at your shots. Look at the lyrics again. Write on the chalkboard 1,000 times why you were wrong.

Actors! On stage. Ok…you did fine. No, that’s it. You were fine. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, 12 Years a Slave), you nailed Scar. While you lacked Iron’s ham, you had your own gravitas and made it work. Clearly the best in the lot. Mr Jones, good to have you back sir. Why did they auto tune you though? You still have it. Yes, you sound different, but you are still epic. Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave, Star Trek: First Contact) you exude class as Sarabi. Who else who else, oh yes, Florence Kasumba. You made the Hyena matriarch Shenzi flipping intimidating and even a bit scary at times. Well done. Like seriously well done. The rest of the performances are just average, yes including Beyonce. It’s just meh.

There is also a lot of critique on the expressionless animations going around since the trailers dropped. I have news for you, its intentional. I understand what the animators were going for. This is Disney showing off just how good they are at generating photo realistic animals and terrain. That is almost literally all this movie is. They went for a naturalistic animal expression, motions, and body language. Even animalistic ticks as they are even just standing around are present. Due to that the more human facial expressions we are used to from animation never make it across. 90% of the time the animations are amazing and beautiful, if emotionless, but its the other 10% that concern me. How, how in an entirely computer generated movie do you create shots that look like they are on green screen or against a matte painting? Follow up question – why would you?

TL;DR?

There are going to be a lot of people who like this movie. There were people in my showing who clapped for it. Myself and my Dark Court were not among them. With the Court it rated a meh at best, and to be fair that is all it is at best. I can forgive a bad movie that is a meh because it tried. I can forgive an original movie or even the odd remake that is a meh because they tried something original and appreciate it for what it does. Disney doesn’t get that slack.

Disney is a studio who has made $2.1 billion this year in the America alone. That’s with a B and only on 9 movies. The next closest studio is at $894 million with 23 movies released. Disney also has Maleficent 2, Frozen 2, and Star Wars coming this year. You don’t get a pass on Meh anymore, especially with tentpole productions. I actively dislike this movie.

Wow, ok should I see it?

No. Look just put the animated in. Share it with your kids and be happy.

Would you see it again?

No. I will see Aladdin again over this.

I am guessing…

I won’t buy it. You are correct.

Parting thoughts then?

I wasn’t hopeful for this movie to begin with. It met my expectations. I go back to what I said in the Aladdin review, Disney is at its best on these when it deviates from the original in new and inventive ways. The writing is bad enough I want to shake the writer and remind them of the Rule of three. I want to flog the editors for some of the weirdest pacing and cutting decisions that take away from many scenes which should have had emotional weight to them but just looked confused or rushed.

Also – how, how in Turings name did you make a stampede with no energy? A fight between lions and hyenas that just was…ok? That is unacceptable when you have no limitations on its capabilities.

I cannot recommend the Lion King to anyone – but alas I know it will make a few hundred million.

If nothing else we have a potentially good Mulan movie next spring?

 

Darke Reviews | Spider-man: Far from Home (2019)

I really can’t write this review without some Endgame spoilers as everything is driven by the events of that movie. Granted the trailers alone give it away so I am not too worried, but be warned. This movie marks the official end of Marvel Phase 3, not Endgame. What does that even mean? Well Marvel has been approaching their own movies in phases, with Phase 1 culminating in avengers, Phase 2 oddly ended with Ant-Man rather than Ultron, which I suppose makes this being the end of 3 not the strangest thing. This is not so much a denouement to Phase 3 as it is an epilogue that bookends the series and answers a question everyone was sort of asking after Endgame; what next? What is the actual impact of The Snap and its return is? What does losing Iron Man and the Avengers look like? What does the impact on every day people look like after a galactic threat? A  good bookend would answer those questions.

Is Spider-Man Far from Home or the mark?

So the story does answer some of those questions really well and others not so much.  The opening is more or less an exposition dump from the school vlog/news given to us by Betty Brant; which explains to the audience “Previously on Spider-Man”. Is it a bit convenient that *all* of Peter’s closest friends, frenemies, and Aunt May were affected? Yes. Let me ask you another one though in response. Is it also very comic bookish? Also yes. The point of a good Spider-man story is not so much the epic show downs, but instead the relationships he has and strains with those around him as he tries to lead a double life. Made worse by being a minor instead of an adult as he technically has even less autonomy and the excuses are well…bad every time he needs to vanish. Far from Home has all of this in spades, perhaps too much though. The movie also relies on an inordinate amount of awkwardness and embarrassment type humor to drive the story. I absolutely detest that. Many will find it acceptable and part and parcel with a teenager based movie. As someone who was bullied through school I never find it humorous and just instead feel it uncomfortable and hard to watch again and again. Even a third act close for much of the movies humor around this topic just reinforces it.

I suppose with the writers from American Dad, Drawn Together, and Crank Yankers being given more reign this time than they were with Homecoming it makes sense. This isn’t to say the screenplay by Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna is a bad one. It’s actually a very solid story beyond those beats. Peter desperately trying to have a normal life is even for a summer and trying to find his place in the world after the death of his surrogate father Tony Stark. While the line from the trailer is important “he’s been to space” is used as a joke to move Peter forward, consider the pressure of that. Everything he has seen and done in such a short time and then to lose his touchstone and guidance immediately upon his own return from death. Can he find a brief, but fleeting sense of normalcy in all of this even with perhaps finding a bit of romance with MJ amidst the field trip to Europe.

The direction of Jon Watts is consistent with Homecoming and he understands how to hold on the more emotional moments of the film and let some of the conversations happen “naturally”. You always have a good sense of the geometry of the fight sequences which are both visually interesting and engaging. Granted Holland is still just knocking it out of the park with the complexity of Peter as a character, but unlike the scene from the trailer ,which has been cut from the movie, we don’t get the humor of Spider-Man himself. I could have used some of that instead of the other stuff mentioned before. The movie though didn’t really have a good place for it either, so while I miss it I can’t see a place to have put it in when fighting Elemental creatures. Zendaya is captivating as this universes MJ and brings more complexity and nuance to the character than we’ve ever seen before and the movie benefits from it.  The one worth talking about beyond our two is Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. He nails it. This is a perfect way to do a classic character with a schtick that should only work in comics and animation and make him live. They even made it so that his smoke filled helmet works. He’s a clever character and done well.

TL;DR?

Far From Home isn’t far from the mark. It is a solid two hour romp that is a really good Spider-Man story. It’s a smaller one after a glut of world wide and galactic threats. It focuses on the characters and their interactions and Peter himself, having accepted he must be Spider-Man but not fully understanding what that means yet. The movie has some really solid emotional beats and follows the rise and fall really well and gives us a conclusion to both Spider-Man Far From Home and Phase 3 that we can live with.

Should you see it?

This might be one of the last good high budget movies of the summer. It’s worthy of the 4th of July slot and overall is a really solid movie that doesn’t verge into great for me, but is very good overall.

Would you see it again?

Odds are pretty good that I will. I have Dark Princesses and Dark Court members who want to see it and I am ok with it.

Buying it?

Absolutely.

Is this Marvel or Sony?

This is very much a Sony movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Any good easter eggs?

Well the trailer introduces the concept of the multi-verse and an in movie explanation with that aligns with comic canon that this is Earth 616; which is the main comics line. There’s a handful of others that are more and less subtle that made me smile.

Parting thoughts?

I could have done without the excessive humor around embarrassment and uncomfortableness. The romantic beats work, but more than that, this is a Spider-Man movie. This reminds me of the comics I read as a little girl and I am pleased with the final result.

Darke Reviews | Child’s Play (2019)

I’ve never quite been what one would call a fan of the Child’s Play series. I’ve watched most of them at one point or another and while not a fan appreciate how bat-guano-crazy they get; even with the first movie. I mean come on, this is a movie about a doll possessed by the soul of a psychopath who begins to kill people. A doll. This isn’t like Annabelle or any of the modern haunted dolls, this is literally the DOLL killing people. The Puppetmaster series at least acknowledged its camp in its own unique Full Moon way. To be fair, as Child’s Play went on the series got weirder and weirder, and did acknowledge just how strange it is as a series in its own way. As with any remake of a franchise that has some serious fans there was doubt on a new movie being made.

Should Chucky go back in the box?

The first thing to address is, is this a sequel, a remake, or a reboot? Based on everything I have to work with this is absolutely a remake with no acknowledgement to the original movies in anyway shape or form. It has all of the hallmarks of a remake as well, with callbacks to the original but most of them being ham-fisted; right down to getting the name Chucky. The screenplay that drove this is from Tyler Burton Smith, who as near as I can tell is not related to one of the producers the often lamented Seth Grahame Smith. Seth is known for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter; but also the writer for Tim Burtons abomination of a Dark Shadows movie. Knowing Seth is a producer and Tyler Burton Smith has video game writing credits before this gives me some insight to aspects of the movie; which is suffice to say emotionally flat. I acknowledge I might be in a bad mood, because I was offended by one of the trailers before it but the movie goes out of its way to make every human the worst possible versions of themselves.

Like I get it, as slasher movies (De-?)evolved we began to look forward to obnoxious people being killed and our killer being more of a protagonist than even our final girls. This took it to a new level that was just off-putting rather than perversely gleeful. Only two characters in the movie are remotely likable and they are tertiary characters at best. That is not good. Part of a horror movie is to feel tension that a character you like is going to be harmed. Here? Not only do you feel no tension, you are just waiting for them to die because they are just bleh; but thats not enough they have to upscale it before hand. It’s completely unnecessary and takes away from any impact the movie could have had as you know a horror movie. If the people are likable, then when the doll begins doing what it does…you worry. You wonder whats going to happen next and then have favourites you don’t want dead. Here…who cares? Not me. Certainly not the script.

I think the director tried to care, but I am not sure he was cut out for what he had to do here to make this work. Lars Klevberg’s only other work was the film Polaroid which was supposed to be released in 2017. Remember that one? Here you go:

I had completely forgotten about this movie until writing this review. I went to check did it come and go with a whimper, but found out it never even showed up. It was pushed back twice on the release schedule then never released here in the US. It *finally* got a German release in 2019, but thats about it. Looking at the two pictures I see a man who tries to go for cold barren landscapes, he wants to use his lighting to create mood using stark single colours to light a scene. He prefers relatively tight shots on his cast, but rarely a full close up. He tries to play with the camera, but forgets that the camera is a point of view itself and if you decide to track it as if it was first person you need to make the motion make sense. In other words he is trying, but needs to refine a bit before he gets there.

Aubrey Plaza gets to run solo in this one as the main star of the movie and the mother of the child who acquires the doll. She tries and having seen the full force of her personality in Legion, Safety Not Guaranteed, and a ton of clips from Parks and Rec, she’s entirely wasted here. Her delivery is flat and I can only blame the direction, she tries but doesn’t have the inertia to or will to overcome that which holds her back. Gabriel Bateman, who plays the new Andy is fine I guess. If anything his performance feels the most natural and sounds like a kid reacting to what he has to. There’s an odd choice by the movie to make him hearing impaired, but it adds absolutely nothing to the movie to do so. I have a feeling there’s a draft of the script where it comes into play more but someone said this looks too much like A Quiet Place and cut it from the movie but not the hearing aid entirely. Mark Hamill is fine as the voice of Chucky, but the script gives him nothing to work with compared Brad Dourifs take in 88. This isn’t a slight on Hamill, we know what he can do with voice acting, but the script gave him nothing. Nothing to do with it.

The only thing remotely interesting in the movie is how they use the fact the Buddi doll is like a generation nine Alexa and connect to your home, phone, tv, and even roomba. Again the idea is interesting, but they don’t take it nearly far enough. The movie is a very brisk 90 minutes – with credits, so time could have been spent to do something curious, something new with it, or something to add to the horror, but it doesn’t. Even the gore, which I am sure other reviews may talk about was more mild than it was intense. I won’t even go into some of the more interesting logistical issues.

TL:DR;

This is the kind of remake that people warn you about. It tries to be new, but tries to keep ties to the original. It tries to be edgy and reinvent the franchise, but misses the point. The script is not great, the direction mediocre, the acting mediocre, and generally comes across as a flat movie trying to find relevance. When 2013’s Curse of Chucky and then in 2017 had Cult of Chucky come out and was a strong entry in an almost 30 year old franchise, this feature comes across even more unnecessary and painfully derivative from Don Mancini’s work on the other seven films. This strikes even more of a vibe as Curse and Cult are reasonably scary for the franchise.

Should I see it then?

No. Just no.

Would you watch it again?

Only if I was stuck in the body of a possessed doll and had no method of locomotion….

So not buying it then eh?

Not even a little thought on that.

Is it that bad?

The doll looks bad. The movie is bad. I kept hoping Charles Lee Ray would end it for me. Just watch Curse and Cult of Chucky and hope for the best that Don Mancini gets to do something with the franchise again.

Darke Reviews | Men in Black: International (2019)

I really had no interest in the Men in Black films after the second one, so I missed the third one (apparently a good thing?) and I even missed the animated series (yes it’s a thing). Will Smith lost his charm with me a very long time ago and so did the franchise. I was very dubious when I heard there was a new Men in Black movie coming out, but then I heard the cast; Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. I have a serious girl crush on Thompson and Hemsworth isn’t exactly what one calls something bad to add to a movie. Seven years since the last film put a nail in the series coffin and twenty two years since the original. The trailers showed some promise and gave us a heroine to get behind, so I went and watched it with the two members of my Dark Court.

Should we be neuralized to forget?

There are two writing credits on the movie, which is not across my writer threshold making it a good thing. Art Marcum and Matt Holloway who have screenplay credits on Iron Man, Punisher War Zone, and Transformers the Last Knight. Talk about hit or miss? It does, however, inform some of what I saw in the movie. A script that doesn’t do anything particularly original and follows the Men in Black formula pretty well. There are some clear bits of dialogue that represent expected plot points that got dropped as the production went on. The story is what was promised on the trailer, girl finds the MiB, gets recruited, gets sent to London office. Threat to the planet ensues.  They look good a long the way.

So not original? No. Formulaic? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. Not always. I hear in critics circles and some regular movie goers saying “its sooo formulaic” as if its a bad thing. Every movie is a formula. Some are more recognizable than others. They get reused for a reason – they work. When you go to a bar do you complain that your drink is formulaic? You just paid the same amount you did for a movie ticket. All it means is that the pattern and structure follow something you’ve seen before, but with the content being adjusted for this particular narrative. The adjustments work here and I really didn’t have any major complaints. I don’t have much in the way of major praises either. It simply works at the baseline and in some cases, like this one, that really is not the worst thing in the world.

A good director helps though and fortunately F. Gary Gray is a good director. I like his work on Set It Off, The Italian Job, and the Negotiator. I hear that Straight Outta Compton was good. The framing of shots is good. The direction and required mystery components are handled well. He had two of the most charismatic modern actors in Thompson and Hemsworth. He used his Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson well, something frequently not done.  Side characters like Kumail Nanjiani (Stuber) and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible) work well and suit the narrative and even add to it, which makes a pleasant change from previous films.

If anything the biggest weakness on the movie is an over-reliance on CG. More than a few of the shots and creatures would have looked even more amazing in the practical with make up, puppets, and the like. That said, the vast majority of the CG creatures and world looked good. The studios involved clearly spent their money well here and created that same lived in world of MiB with always some little thing in the background, which is a very Mos Eisley Cantina trick and I appreciate it. While some looked good, there’s two or three effects that just look exceptional and are definitely worth seeing.

TL;DR

I love that the writers and director went with the female lead on this one and that she is confident and capable. Not to say that she doesn’t make mistakes, but the humor in this movie is elevated even over the first one. All the jokes land and really for once don’t depend upon the embarrassment of someone to be funny. I *hate* that kind of humor and the movie didn’t have it. Thompson is a more than capable lead character and the charisma between her and her co-star in Thor is more than enough to light up any screen.

The movie much to my surprise works. It isn’t great, it doesn’t redefine the genre, but if you want to start off a new franchise you could do a lot worse than this. Point in fact this is one of the first times in a long time I actively want a reboot of the franchise with these two characters at the helm. Not only are the actors magnificently charming, I *like* both the characters for what they bring to the table. Men in Black International surprised me a bit. I knew I enjoyed it and was able to unwind watching it, but as I write I am finding how much I enjoyed it.

Granted, maybe its just me comparing it to last weeks movie? Either way…

Should I see it?

Yeah if you were dubious I think you will be ok. Like I’ve said, it doesn’t tread any new ground plot wise, is pretty basic but makes that work in its favor. Matinee minimum, super sound systems optional.

Would you see it again?

The Dark Court and I agree – probably not in theatres. Not a bad thing, just it doesn’t require that screen to enjoy

So you’re buying it then?

Honestly, yeah. I liked it.

Anything else to add?

This movie didn’t help with my crush. It might have made it worse? 

In all seriousness, the humor in the movie works and doesn’t do it at the expense of anyone, beyond some decent physical comedy from Hemsworth. I would recommend he talk to Brendan Frasier before he plays that card too much.

Ok so Next week?

Toy Story 4 – Probably not. I never fell in love with that franchise. I honestly didn’t particularly like the first one, don’t even remember the second, and didn’t watch the third.

Childs Play – I am curious. Pretty likely. No members of the Dark Court with me though. Maybe a Dark Princess will brave it?

Anna – maybe, for some mindless action fare? Still undecided there.

 

 

 

Darke Reviews | Dark Phoenix (2019)

Interesting that the title isn’t X-Men Dark Phoenix, it’s just Dark Phoenix. X-Men First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), and X-Men Apocalypse(2016) and now Dark Phoenix in 2018. Whoops, thats right this was originally to have a release date on November 2, 2018, then pushed to Valentines day, now pushed to June. Pushing release dates is costly to the studio, mostly in PR and awareness of your audience as they remember the original and then…forget. We saw this with Alita, and people going “Didn’t this come out already?”.  Reshoots are even more costly to the studio, costing millions if not tens of million dollars. You have to bring actors back from whatever they are doing now, rebuild sets, hire crew, and also challenge some poor Visual Effects house with last minute work that they will be underpaid for. I suppose there’s only one question –

Is The Dark Phoenix worth the cost?

Sit down with me for a moment. I want you to remember the original “X” franchise of films. Now try to remember X-Men The Last Stand in 2006. This movie was the original franchise run and attempt to do the Dark Phoenix Saga. It is almost universally panned, sank the franchise so badly nothing was made for 5 years and it was a Retcon/Reboot,  and made people doubt the vitality of the comic book movie. Two years later Iron Man came out and we tried, actively, to forget how bad it was. We did for a time and life was better, even if the new franchise referenced it in both Wolverine, Logan, and Days of Future Past we were able to get by. I ask you to remember this with me because I need to tell you something important. I need you to answer something for me after I tell you.

The studio hired the same man who wrote X-Men the Last Stand as the writer and director for this movie. He has the sole credit on the movie for written by. He is also the one with screenplay credit on Fan4stic in 2015. I need to know what blackmail material that Simon Kinberg has on 20th century Fox. What could possibly posses a studio to give this man the job? He *is* a producer this is true, but why and how could he get funding after any picture he has had direct involvement in has not been commercially well received. Why would they think that giving him the same project he botched so thoroughly thirteen years ago would be a wise idea? Granted, here I feel like quoting Jurassic Park The Lost World.

Um no, not the same mistakes. You’re making all new ones.

Kinberg did not make many of the mistakes made in The Last Stand. He did in fact make plenty of new ones. He thought that close up shots of our Queen of the North and her amazing cheekbones breathing heavily, with a cracking fire effect in her skin makes for drama. They use that shot at least six times. X-Men First Class worked because of dialogue and chemistry between characters. Days of Future Past worked because of dialogue and the debates between Xavier and Magneto and Mystique. Apocalypse…didn’t work for many because it lacked those things. This one has precisely two scenes where there is that emotionally charged and heavy debate of morality and ethics and what is right or wrong.  They both exist in Act I. Shortly after I stopped caring.

I can look past the fact that for a movie set in 1992 Charles should be 54 and Magneto likely pushing 60 and they didn’t even bother with any form of aging make up. The earlier movies gave an excuse for Mystique not them.  But fine, we can say all Mutants age gracefully. I can almost, almost get past how awful Jennifer Lawrence’s make up is as Mystique. I get it she didn’t want to do the movies anymore and didn’t want to have to do full body make up again. We can put her in completely unflattering (and I don’t mean non sexy, I mean just not good looking on camera) outfits, the worst wig I have seen in awhile, and change the make up entirely. Nah, I can’t get past that. It’s lazy.

 

X-Men First Class – 1962 (Filmed 2011)

X-Men Days of Future Past- 1973 (Filmed 2014)

X-Men Apocalypse – 1983 (Filmed 2016)

 

 

Dark Phoenix – 1992 (Filmed 2018)

Look I get it she’s a shapeshifter, but how does it look worse and worse as the movies go?

This movie had a $200 million budget. $40 million more than First Class, roughly the same as Days of Future Past, and $22 million more than Apocalypse – which looked…bad. There are so many shots in this movie that just look …bad. Mystique is just the tip of the iceberg and when you have a budget like this I would expect some form of climactic ending that is satisfying. This had nothing of the sort. I get you had to reshoot the ending because it was too close to Captain Marvel (which you would have beaten by several months on the original release), but this ending had no weight to it. Faceless people dying facelessly. Yay? Sure there are some cool moments in the finale, but they are moments. They have no emotional weight to them as there is no emotional build up to them or breath to take after its done.

That is the ultimate problem with the movie. There is absolutely no emotional arc worth a damn. Kinberg says he loves the material, but he’s butchered it not once but twice now. From an opening sequence that looks to pay homage to the altar of Michael Bay and his jingoist tendencies to absolutely zero denouement. The story is so emotionally flat that the only thing you care about is getting to the next beat before you fall asleep from not caring.

I could try to talk about how McAvoy, Fassbender, Hoult try to turn it around, but they cannot overcome the inertia of this. I could talk about how Turner powers through and brings emotional weight to the arc and salvages it, but that would be a lie. Despite Jean Grey’s power, Turner is not more powerful than Kinbergs overwhelming mediocrity. Jessica Chastain must have lost a bet or thought she was signing on to play an even older Jean but instead they made her platinum blonde and emotionally drained. She is wasted. Alexandra Shipp had reason to be angry a few weeks ago as while Storm LOOKS cool (she really does) there’s maybe fifteen actual lines of dialogue for her. We get nothing even close to good Quicksilver scenes which elevated both prior movies.

You know what I am tired of talking about it. Its not worth it.

TL;DR

Magneto’s line from one of the early trailers works for my feelings on the movie “We’ve heard it all before, no one cares.” The actors may have cared, the crew may have cared, but the writer/director and producer did not.  This is the worst kind of laziness with a franchise that had found its legs and put out a better than average success rate. I thought my review might have been kinder than some of the others, but as I often find when I’m on the fence about a mediocre movie the more I write the more irritated I get with it.

Even the Dark Princess and Dark Council member who joined me tonight was bored with it. Admittedly she had not watched an X film since X-2, but she couldn’t fathom why she should care about Jean Grey. The movie gave no one a reason to care, the franchise gave no one a reason to care. 20 minutes of screen time in Apocalypse is not enough.

So should I see it?

No. No one should. If they didn’t put an emotional investment in it, the movie is not worth your monetary investment.

Would you see it again?

No.

Ok what about completing your collection when it comes out in digital or blu-ray?

It’s unlikely. Even though there are moments I like it doesn’t have enough of them.

OK so it’s bad, can we give it the MST3K treatment?

Sadly, still no. It’s high production value bad. Everyone involved CAN act so that isn’t a point to pick on it. Sure they can’t out do the bad directing and script, but that isn’t their fault.

I have nothing on this movie. I was going to say it’s on the tail end of mediocre just dabbling above bad, but no. This is a bad movie.

Better than Last Stand, but only because it is more comprehensible and at least reasonably true to the characters.

 

This was not worth the delays or reshoots. Let’s see what Disney does in five years with it.