Darke Reviews | Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Greetings True Believers. So a theatre chain did a screening of the new animated Spider-Man movie tonight, needless to say I had my butt in a seat for it. While the trailer left me wondering a bit on the animation style as it wasn’t anything I had quite seen before I knew this movie would be important as it was the first time we got to see Miles Morales on screen. Now those who are not familiar with comics, and truth be told I’ve been out of them for awhile, may not know that in 2011 a new Spider was introduced; and this one happened to be a young Afro-Latino boy.   Needless to say in an age where in post after post I have to say #RepresentationMatters this movie is important. Until this year we have not yet had a person of colour lead a major comic book movie in this Renaissance of the comic movie. Yes, Black Panther was this year – how wild is that? Now obviously we can all name T’challa, Falcon, and even Nick Fury as black Heroes on screen. Now name the number of Latinx ones you’ve seen on screen.

Miles Morales is important.

This movie is important.

But is it good?

Let me cut to the chase and avoid the TL;DR cut – Yes. Yes it is.

First, let’s talk writing, this was written by Phil Lord of the Lego Movie fame (and kicked off of Solo: a Star Wars story fame) with his writing partner Christopher Miller as a producer. The story is an origin story, but damn if it isn’t solid. Not only do we get the origin for Miles to become Spider-Man, they introduce five other Spider’s from alternate universes. So the movie is able to juggle a total of six Spider’s and still keep Miles as our central character, with character conflict, growth, and identity being underlying themes through the movie and it works. Miles remains center stage, but you still get enough time with the other major characters through the story to get it. The movie also retains a beautiful sense of humor through out and is as far from Grimdark and Depressing as you can get.

It’s rare I get to talk about three directors for one movie, but here we go with Rodney Rothman (a Lord & Miller partner and writer on their projects), and two artists. The first is Bob Perischetti, who worked on Mulan, Tarzan, Shrek 2, and Monsters vs Aliens; as well as the acclaimed The Little Prince.  Peter Ramsey is an artist turned director, who worked as a storyboard and illustrator for Bram Stokers Dracula, Tank Girl, and was the director on the painfully underrated Rise of the Guardians.  These men know how to get great voice acting that has the subtle intonations that elevate the performance and also bring a strong visual style to the art team who had their work cut out for them combining cell shaded animation, traditional four colour dot art, CG characters, traditionally animated characters, and more into a single picture.

This movie is absolutely gorgeous. Colour theorists will have a field day with this one and they should with every colour being intentional and also amazingly vibrant. Even in the “dark” scenes in the movie, the contrast of colours against the true blacks just pop off the screen to the point I almost wondered how this would look with 3-D glasses. There is such amazing kineticism to the film as well where your eyes are always watching something and when the fights, chases, and other major beats happen there is a fluidity of motion you just cannot do in live action film making and the movie takes full advantage of it. It is raw, it is dynamic, and the camera always follows the action and keeps pulling you into those action beats so well. The animation also knows when to be still as well. The right moments are held like freeze frames with only minimal motion, but maximum emotion. Even the character designs, while so bloody disparate work when they really shouldn’t.

Credit must be given to Shameik Moore (Dope, The Get Down) is our Miles Morales, and for a 23 year old knocks it out of the park playing a very young teenager. Because of the complexity of the voice acting Moore brings we have a truly three dimensional portrayal of this character with a fantastic message for our viewers. Jake Johnson (the computer geek guy from Jurassic World) is our Peter Parker and while I wasn’t sure on him at the opening he also brought layers to what otherwise would have been a lesser character. The same can be said for Hailee Steinfield (Ender’s Game, True Grit, and the upcoming Bumblebee) as Spider-Woman/Gwen or Ghost Spider. This movie did her right too and I can think of hundreds and thousands of girls who will see a female hero who isn’t treated sexually in any way shape or form and is absolutely someone who kicks butt, has her own arc, and just is well done. Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, This is Us) and Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage, Moonlight) have some emotional burden to carry too and do it admirably.

Even the music in this movie just rocks from beginning to end and …and ..

TL;DR

This movie I could go on and on about. I can tell you the hype for it is real. The positive reviews may not go far enough. I saw yesterday that this movie was nominated for a Golden Globe for best animated feature and I have no argument that it should win. You haven’t seen a movie animated like this before, and maybe won’t again, but it’s original. It’s vibrant. The characters are good. The story is good. The movie works on every possible level and holds it’s own against some of the best Marvel and Disney have put out.

Not only is it good, but it also reminds us how much Representation DOES Matter and gives us the heroes we really do need right now, and a message we need as well.

So I am taking it I should…

Yes. Yes you should. In theatres. IMAX if you can for the full immersion of colour.

Would you see it aga….

Yes. Next?

Buying it?

This movie is why 4K TV’s exist.

Ok Vampire lady calm down aren’t you a bit too hyped?

Maybe. My best friend and I were talking about this movie the entire ride home and just how GOOD it is. Like capital “G”. It has a positive message for the kiddos, tons of nostalgia for those old enough, is beautiful, and honestly pure. I almost feel bad for Peter Jackson next week when this comes out as Mortal Engines is going to get destroyed by this.

I really do like this movie and I hope you see it and like it too.

 

Darke Reviews | Wreck it Ralph 2 – Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ok so that took longer than I was expecting to decide what to title this. Apparently most of the sources are going by the short title now “Ralph Breaks the Internet” so that’s a thing that happened. Last year I forgot that with the Wednesday pre thanksgiving release, the movie gets its preview night showings on the Tuesday as Wednesday is the full release. Around 6:30 tonight I remembered. So you get your review as usual the day of the release since most of you are reading this in the morning. As the year winds down we always have the big Disney release on this weekend and this year is no different and for the first time in forever its a sequel; something Disney does not do well historically on their own, Pixar being it’s own beast in that vein. Of course I am nervous about my sequel Frozen 2 and what that might look like, but we aren’t here to read about that.

Did they Wreck it or Fix it?

Not that 2012’s Wreck it Ralph needed to be fixed really and it doesn’t surprise too much that it would get a sequel as it made almost half a billion dollars domestically. The story was sweet, the threat was impressive, and the characters weren’t quite like anything we had been given before; which was a breath of fresh air into the Disney sails. Six years later, and five writers (eep) we have our sequel. The story credits here go to Josie Trinidad (head of story, and a Disney story artist on Tangled, Princess and the Frog and Wreck it Ralph), Pamela Ribon (story by on Moana), Jim Reardon (story by on Wreck it Ralph, Zootopia, and WALL-E),  Phil Johnston (Zootopia, and Wreck it Ralph), AND Rich Moore (Zootopia, Wreck it Ralph). Whew, five writers is usually a bad sign, but not unusual on a major Disney production as there is often a writers room involved. The screenplay was then polished by Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon, and directed by Johnston and Moore. So everyone is deeply involved in the production along the way here.

The story is as we see in the trailers, Vanellope von Schweetz game Sugar Rush has a bit of a physical break. Only one place on the Internet has the part needed to fix her game, and it is more pricey than the Arcade owner is willing to spend – which means he may shut down the game forever. In order to get the new part Ralph and Vanellope go to the Internet and attempt to save Sugar Rush and Vanellope’s game. Along the way adventure and hijinks ensue where our characters travel to familiar internet hotspots and meet or run into characters we all know and love.

The story here is basic and sweet guys, do you expect much more? It has all of the very predictable, and to me somewhat annoying, ups and downs of any given Buddy movie ever made. That isn’t a bad thing at all. Sometimes basic is good and here it works. The message within the movie is something the real target audience could use and again this is not a bad thing and honestly its so direct that the message might sink in. So many kids movies try to be subtle in the message or shove in some motivational language or ham fisting their message as a line of dialogue at the end. This one actually uses it as a through line and I appreciate it for that.

John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman carry the movie as one would imagine as our main two protagonists and it really isn’t much effort on their part, but the emotion is there in the performances. Gal Gadot and Taraji P Henson are show stealers as their characters Shank and Yesss. The rest of the voice cast is filled with names you will know and yes, the Disney Princesses are all voiced by their still existing voice actresses when and where possible. A personal favourite voice actress, Jennifer Hale, voices Cinderella of the broken shoe. No she’s nothing “special” within the context of the movie, I just like the actress.

The animation is everything you’d expect from the House of Mouse, no better and no worse. It’s clean. It’s bright. It’s crisp. It’s animated in both the literal and figurative sense. There’s so much motion going on in the film at almost all times there’s something to be said for the work put in there. The Disney Princess scene from the trailer is everything promised and more, even for being as short as it is.

TL;DR?

Look it’s Disney. It’s good. It’s a kids movie coming out on Thanskgiving. It won’t change the world. I can’t say it’s great. It absolutely is the movie you are expecting it to be with nothing more and nothing less given or shown. The scene everyone wants to see from the trailer is absolutely worth the price of admission and the racing scenes promised are pretty awesome to watch when you consider the amount of animation effort that goes into them.

My friends and I had a good time tonight. So take your best friend, your family, whomever and go see it. I bet you wanted to anyway!

Should I see it?

If you wanted to? Absolutely. You will get your moneys worth. If you weren’t all that interested, this movie won’t be change your mind that much one way or the other.

Would you see it again?

Maybe on a matinee. I’d pay full price the first time, but second Matinee is fine

Buying it?

It has Elsa in it. Of course I am buying it. Also its solid enough to be in the collection and has some pretty good rewatch value.

Anything else on it?

It has Elsa in it.

I have a mighty need for her “casual” outfit from this movie.

 

Ultimately folks, the movie is as sweet as it is harmless. It has a good message and is the family film that people have been waiting awhile for this fall. Go see it and enjoy.

Darke Reviews | Robin Hood (2018)

So last year in May we got the King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie; which was rightfully trounced for being a near unwatchable mess of a film. I mean that literally as in the editing and camera work and the cutting made it nearly unwatchable. It was the start and end of what was supposed to be a “universe” of King Arthur movies. We also received The Mummy last year, another attempt to start a universe with an old property that the studio had rights to. It was buried very quickly as it should have been for well mostly being an unlikable mess. When the first trailer for yet another Robin Hood movie dropped my eyes rolled hard. The last time we had a good Robin Hood movie was roughly 1991 with Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, but lets face it the last Robin Hood movie that most everyone universally loves was in 1973 with the Disney animated classic. Ooh de lally!

 

So does this remake miss the bulls eye?

The story here opens with “This isn’t the history you know” and I am thankful for it as it sets me in the right tone for the rest of the movie. The story is an…original…take on the Robin Hood legend, written by Ben Chandler, who has absolutely no credits I can find. Chandler, and another newcomer David James Kelly, took the story and made a screenplay. Now a more doubting person may think these could be pseudonyms for other people, a version of an Alan Smithee perhaps; or perhaps they are real people. Regardless the script doesn’t have a movie it didn’t like. The best way I can set expectations properly is this is what happens if you put A Knights Tale and the Mask of Zorro (that’s the good one), put them in a Martini shaker and poured out the mixture with a dose of social commentary over a chilled glass with scenes and dialogue from a half dozen other movies. To do all of this successfully in and of itself is a work of art and original – and I love them for it.

Now the director, Otto Bathurst, does exist as I watched an interview with him about the production of this movie. He has won some BAFTA’s in the past for a show called Criminal Justice, he did an episode of Black Mirror, and the pilot episodes of Peaky Blinders; and Translation – he is very British. In making this picture I feel that he just out Guy Ritchie’d Guy Ritchie. This is the most Guy Ritchie movie I’ve seen in years, and I saw King Arthur. Elements that were attempted and failed horribly in that movie are done here and with near ecstatic success. The shots look good, even if there’s some dodgy CG on some of them, there’s also enough practical that the movie is elevated for it. Lars Andersen was brought in to consult to give Taron Egerton the real skills needed to fire a bow and at those speeds with accuracy.

The acting is fine. Taron Egerton is as charming as ever in the title role. He was born for roles like this and Kingsman and he is the action star we need. Jamie Foxx is well Jamie Foxx and looks to be having a good time himself as he delivers probably the most serious role in the movie. That isn’t to say the movie is a comedy or anyone else isn’t taking their roles seriously, but that everyone is so much larger than life, including Foxx, but he delivers the most grounded dialogue of them all. Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One, Ready Player One) knows exactly who he is emulating in his performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham and doesn’t even try to hide it and again I love him for it. The other standout who has to help carry the film is Irish actress, Eve Hewson (Blood Ties, Bridge of Spies) as Marian. In what is becoming common place (yay) she is a character with her own agency and plans and choices to make and Hewson does it all with flawless eyeliner.

Yes, eyeliner. This movie makes no real attempts to hide its costuming influences or to even be remotely historically accurate. The costumes are as bold as the personalities within them. There are leather jackets everywhere. At least one scene with stiletto heels and I am going to tell you it doesn’t matter. The movie made no attempt to try and I am ok with it. Again here is knows what it is and what it is trying to do and be and decided that if it couldn’t be 100% historically accurate it would go to 11 on not. The action scenes are easy to follow and look good on the camera, even if again the CG is a bit dodgy at times. The camera work is also quite intentionally giving close ups, inverted shots, and distorted fish eyes when needed, if you want to poke it may have been a bit on the nose there, but the movie once again is unapologetic for what it does.

TL;DR?

I love this movie so much. It is absolutely popcorn fare and wants you to know that it is too. The earlier reference of A Knights Tale and Mask of Zorro is accurate and really sets the tone for the entire film. Everyone knows the movie they are making and while taking it seriously and putting the effort in also remember to take every aspect of their performances up just that extra notch and we all benefit from it. Robin Hood doesn’t bother putting some of its elements as Subtext, it goes for it and is unapologetic in doing so. It is anachronistic as hell at times, knows it, but doesn’t stop to wink at the audience doing so. It merely asks that you get on the ride and enjoy.

I gotta tell you I did and so did both my companions tonight. I don’t think we’ve giggled like that coming out of a movie in a long time and truly enjoyed it for what it was. Quite honestly this is one of the best Robin Hood movies ever. It knows it’s a legend. It knows it is mythology. It’s a comic book movie without ever being based on a comic book and this movie succeeds where all the others failed and deserves your money and consideration for a sequel.

So should I see it?

Yes. Take your friends. Go to a theatre with a liquor license, get some popcorn and enjoy! Hell it’s even family friendly and pretty PG by 80’s standards.

Would you see it again?

When do you wanna go? That’s a yes by the way.

Will you buy it?

No doubt in my mind.

Anything else on this one?

I thought tonight was just a standard early screener trying to get some money before Wreck it Ralph wrecks the box office the next six days. Nope, we got a free large popcorn and swag in the form of a really nice tumbler glass with the Robin Hood silhouette on it.

Look guys, this movie isn’t a Good Bad movie. This is a Good Good movie that went for the ridiculous and succeeded. Critics will likely rip it a new one, but I think they are missing the mark. Go in with the frame of mind hopefully this review put you in for it and have a good time.

Darke Reviews | The Girl in the Spiders Web (2018)

The past few weeks have been hell on my movie going timelines with vacation and a brief plague; in addition to a number of double or triple releases of films I want to see. This was a last minute viewing for me with no real plan or I would have invited my regular movie going partner with me, who I do owe a movie and a dinner for missing our last showing. Now, I am a fan of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the original Swedish release (2009), not so much the American remake (2011) a few years later. Noomi Rapace defined the role of Lisbeth Salander, and the late Michael Nyqvist introduced me to investigative journalist Mikael Blomvist. While director Niels Arden Oplev may not be the auteur that David Fincher is, I found his (original) film more engaging. Rooney Mara was good, but she just didn’t hit what Rapace did for me in the role. Unfortunately, I have not gotten around to watching the two sequel films in the Millenium series, The Girl Who Played with Fire and the Girl Who Kicked the Hornets nest; but they are on my list. The movies require a certain frame of mind and preparation for solid investigation, mystery, and intensity that we don’t often get here in the states.

Tonight I was in that frame of mind and took a chance. 

The characters were created by late activist and Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson (1954-2004), with whom even the original Millenium trilogy (Tattoo/Fire/Nest) was published posthumously, then converted to movies shortly after. This movie is based on the book of the same name, written by David Lagercrantz, who has another sequel in print The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. That’s a complex origin, but worth noting for future trivia contests if you so wish. Spiders Web was given the screenplay treatment by Jay Basu (Monsters: Dark Continent) with Steven Knight (Allied, Locke, Seventh Son); with on set touch ups by director Fede Alvarez.  As the director is the third writing credit here, my take is that he was doing rewrites on set with his cast. Alvarez worked on 2016’s Don’t Breathe and the acclaimed 2013 remake of Evil Dead.

The story here is a simple one as told in the trailer, Lisbeth Salander, righter of wrongs, is an avenging angel in Stockholm. She is a computer genius and particularly vindictive to those who victimize women – regardless of their social standing. Lisbeth is contacted to steal a scary software MacGuffin, is nearly killed, and must recover the MacGuffin before it’s too late with the help of some friends. She has an on again off again friendship with famous reporter Mikael Blomkvist, who returns in this movie as well. All of the events though tie to a past we have not seen fully explored for Ms Salander and it may come back to bite her in the end. Honestly, the story is Steal the Scary thing. Scary thing stolen from you. Steal it back that we’ve seen in so many spy thrillers and heist movies over the years. What makes this different is the personal touches and ties to the past and sense of self. Trying to identify who you are and remembering your past without letting it consume you.

The acting is fantastic. Claire Foy (The Crown, Unsane) gets the character. She has the rage, the insecurity, the fear, and the cunning of the titular character down. It’s difficult to make a character like Lisbeth sympathetic as she’s relatively anti social and unlikable, but if you have the chops and can pull of the complexity you can show the sensitivity and the need to reach out for human contact in a look, a touch, or even the slight tilt of the head and Foy has that. It isn’t a surprise she won awards for her work on The Crown, I’d personally like to see her nominated again here. Sverrir Gunnason takes over in the role of Mikael and he’s good, but he doesn’t have the edge to him I was feeling with Nyqvists performance. Lakeith Stanfield (Selma, Death Note) plays another party interested in our MacGuffin and brings a physicality to the movie that it might otherwise be missing, but the character doesn’t do him justice beyond that unfortunately. Sylvia Hoeks is our woman in red, and gives an as nuanced performance as she did as Luv in Blade Runner 2049 last year; which is difficult with the make up and prosthetics she has going on. Even with the minor roles and mediocre characters there’s a lot of subtext in the movie the various cast members have to deliver on and they do that effectively.

The on location (Stockholm) really adds the required atmosphere for the movie. The ice and snow (happy Elsa sigh) are as much characters in the movie at times and add a necessary element to the film. The camera work is both stable and kinetic in that you can see everything going on in every sequence, but there’s a motion to the camera for many of them that draws you into the chases and chess moves being laid out before you on screen.

TL;DR

I was excited watching this movie. It’s good. It’s entertaining from beginning to end. Ultimately it is also satisfying. More than once I found myself sitting up in the lounge seat and leaning forward or quietly cheering for whatever actually happened. In addition to this the movie provides multiple types of LGBT representation which is worth calling out.

I really enjoyed The Girl in the Spiders Web and I think you will too.

Should I see it then?

Yes. This one absolutely edges Widows out if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s just the more satisfying film.

Would you see it again?

No question in my mind. also at full price.

Buying it?

Yes. Also likely to get the other films, sight unseen.

Anything else to add?

I am going to try to see Suspiria this weekend at a local theatre if I can.

Darke Reviews | Widows (2018)

To borrow from the YouTube channel CinemaWins, Viola Davis is always a win. The first trailer for this movie grabbed me. Liam Neeson on a failed heist, the wives of his crew having to pull off his last job or be killed by the people he robbed from. Michelle Rodriguez (who I still haven’t forgiven for The Assignment) as a working mom, Viola, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, this movie had star power; oh and thats without even mentioning the amazing Daniel Kaluuya who has been on fire since Get Out last year. I also happen to love a good Heist film, especially well layered and nuanced ones.

Should Widows have given up the score?

The movie is based on a previous British TV movie from the early 80s, by Lynda LaPlante, who has mostly been doing TV writing since the 70s and is still active today. It was adapted for this story by mystery novelist Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects), and the director himself Steve McQueen. This was a passion project for McQueen, who must have been influenced by the original tv movie, and he apparently has really wanted to do this project for awhile.  McQueens name became big in Hollywood with his Best Picture win for 12 Years a Slave back in 2014 (and nomination for best director). Widows is his first major project since that Win and I can tell you that it wasn’t a fluke that he won. There is a well crafted, nuanced, performance guiding director at the helm here. He knows what he wants his camera to be doing and knew how to layer his story appropriately. He also has an absolute right to insert some material into the movie that I was not expecting, but is unfortunately very timely. If anything the flaw in the scripting left little time to truly explore the number of characters and plotlines, even with the films two hour plus running time. Ideas, threads, and other beats are introduced but never fully resolved, or are brought in in the 11th hour to such a degree that I feel like we have a good fifteen minutes or more of movie missing; and I wouldn’t mind seeing that footage.

Viola Davis, again is always a win, as Veronica Rawlings, wife to Liam Neeson’s Harry. She largely has to carry the movie and can do so with ease, shifting between fear, determination, and pain with all the grace and skill of an actress of her calibre ( 1 Academy Award, and 2 additional nominations). Michelle Rodriguez surprised me a bit, I had a feeling she could do it, but she subdued herself well for this one. The two standouts for me out of the cast beyond Ms. Davis and her screen presence were the two who stood up and made their presences known in equal measure. Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2, The Cloverfield Paradox) has always played background or tertiary roles, in this one she steps it up, and due to her performance you can see a literal evolution of her character Alice before your eyes and it is one of the more compelling subplots. Our second supporting star is Cynthia Erivo who I praised in the under performing Bad Times at the El Royale. She has charisma, she had a singing voice, and here she shows she’s quite the physical actress as well. I really hope we get to see more of both of these women. The other names I mentioned during the intro are of course solid for the screen time they are given. Kaluuya is a stand out performance as he has brought us charm and politeness, balance and rage, and this time he brought menace. It worked. Duvall and Farrell of course are good, but I can’t speak to either of their Chicago accents, it’s not one I can mimic myself well enough to say they nailed it or not.

Beyond the cast there is a strong technical proficiency to the movie; with one particular long take from the hood of a car during a conversation telling two different stories that you can follow simultaneously and very effectively. Almost every shot in the movie shows an understanding of the camera, framing, colour and energy; matched with effective production design to highlight the stark contrasts displayed the movie just sails away and brings you with it. It does suffer from some scene cutting, dropped plots, and jerky pacing, but the sum of the parts overall out weigh this

TL;DR?

Widows is a very good film. There is a compelling cast, with an at its core simple story, that contains layers of storytelling involving corruption, debts, self-identity, and sense of self. Steve McQueen is a director to watch out for and he really knows how to control the camera and bring out the best in his cast. This is a movie that in another directors hands would have been a hot mess, but because of his passion for the project and his skill it turns out to be just shy of what I would call an excellent film

Should I see it?

If you are joining me on the boycott of Fantastic Beasts, this is your film this weekend. If you aren’t joining me on it, and enjoy a good heist this is a good heist film.

Would you see it again?

Yes. Full price even!

Are you buying it?

Absolutely

Any other thoughts?

This movie won’t make the money it deserves unless FB bombs. It is stuck in a bad position and with the next several weeks doesn’t have a great shot and showing its legs. It has just 2/3 of the screens FB s getting, and 400 less screens than Instant Family, Wahlbergs new one.  This feels like alternative programming, with not as much faith. I’d at least have fought for 3,300 screens instead of the 2,800 it’s getting.

Next week Creed 2 will probably peel off any audience this would get and Ralph Breaks the Internet will try to take down the Harry Potter franchise. After that Widows might hold on, but the December crunch begins and the winter Blockbusters will come to destroy all that have come before.

I think this is sad for Widows and it deserved a better slot.

Darke Reviews | Overlord (2018)

JJ Abrams name? Check. World War II? Check. Something that looks like Bernie Wrightson drew it in a fever dream? Check. A potential extended variation from Heavy Metal? Check. See also Fever Dream. Potential DOOM movie accurately made as told by the trailer? Check. Cool title based on the actual Operation Overlord (aka Battle of Normandy)? Check. An opening title sequence straight from a early Hollywood war movie? Check.

Is any of the speculation on this true?

The story of the movie Overlord was written by Billy Ray, who also worked on projects like Volcano, The Hunger Games, and Captain Phillips. The screenplay was done by Mr. Ray and Mark L. Smith, who worked on the 2015 remake of the French film Martyrs (reliable sources say the original is a hard watch), The Revenant,  and the Vacancy franchise. So we have someone who understands epic tales of heroism and someone who gets splatter horror. This seems like an ideal pairing. Second time Australian director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun) takes the helm, with Abrams name as a Producer credit and not a lens flare to be seen.

From a storytelling aspect, they deliver on much of what the trailer for this movie promised. You have a crew going in ahead of the the D-Day invasion in June of 1944. The Nazi’s shoot down most of the squadron and the survivors band together to finish the mission – destroy a radio tower that will make it easy for the Nazi army to defend the beachhead. They work their way through hostile territory and find the French village with the tower, a potential ally, and something far worse. Now me personally, this does hearken back to stories of “Weird War II” and could easily have fit in the same universe as an Indiana Jones, Dead Snow, or Frankenstein’s Army. Weird, occult experiments that involve the profane in an attempt to build a 1,000 year empire. There’s all sorts of anecdotal stories of such things happening during World War II, and those with imaginations take them to wild extremes. This movie being one such extreme.

It looses some internal consistency as the movie develops though that felt a bit jarring to me, but that could be expectations I placed upon character more than writer intent. I’ll let that one go (mostly), as there’s other nice attention to detail that was worth noting such as regional accents with people speaking French. Jovan Adepo (Fences, The Leftovers, The Central Park Five) has some serious chops and carries the movie as our main protagonist Private Ed Boyce. The film is his characters crucible and he does well in both the quiet moments and the loud. The slow fear of waiting on the plane to the panic of being ripped out of it and so much more. Kurt Russel’s son Wyatt, plays our other main protagonist Corporal Ford. He doesn’t have his fathers charm or screen presence, but he tries and delivers what he needs for the movie. French actress Mathilde Ollivier, on the other hand does have some presence even if her character more or less is our standard strong female lead in what is otherwise as a sausage fest.  Pilou Asbaek (Euron Greyjoy) is almost unrecognizable as an SS officer and one of the chief protagonists of the film, and not surprisingly he makes it work.

The technicals on the movie are a mixed bag. We have CG Blood instead of squibs for some of our gunshots, but then squibs in others or better cg at least. Directors. Hollywood. You have not yet gotten CG blood to look nearly as good as a squib and stage blood. I promise you. Keep trying, but leave it for TV, we’ll let you know when you get there. The Gore when it gets there is solid, but I wanted more, bearing in mind I saw this when I was 6 and it was rated PG.

 

The gore is enough for an R, but really this is a soft R in my opinion. There’s beautiful attention to detail in the opening shots and really hits home what many of the stories of the early air raids and paradrops ended up like. They weren’t going for Band of Brothers here, so much is glossed over and left in the wings respectfully. I appreciated it being there though. There’s more things like both these stories through out where there’s beautiful details that most may overlook or beautiful shots, but then something that just doesn’t quite deliver the punch it could.

TL;DR?

It was fun. I was entertained. The actors were engaging. The movie is shot well. I just don’t think it delivered on what it promised enough. This could be a result of me having seen so many other movies, especially more nightmare fuel style that this just didn’t have an impact. I never really got the tension I wanted or the thrills.

The problem I think, is it doesn’t go extreme enough. The movie carries an R Rating, but with movies like Dead Snow and it’s Sequel already touching on this subject and Frakenstein’s Army taking it to the most Holy Hell what in <Dieties Name> was that? If Dead Snow is the Dawn of the Dead Remake, Frankenstein’s Army is Hellraiser, and this….rates as a well made, well executed, The Fog or …maybe Videodrome. This is to say it is a competently made movie with some solid practicals in places, some decent tension in others, oodles of atmosphere, but not nearly as much Gore or “WTF” as they writers think they achieved.

Great built up, just not quite sticking the landing I thought I would get.

Should I see it?

If this is your type of movie. Sure thing. In theatres. The opening sequence with theatre quality size screen and sound is totally worth it.

Would you see it again?

Honestly, if someone took me to see it, I have no problems with that.

Buying it?

Odds are in it’s favor.

Ok, but I am a HORROR FAN!

Horror fans should get a kick out of this as we don’t get movies like this in theatres often enough that are well made, well acted, engaging, and deliver at least on some of our horror needs.

Anything else?

There’s a hard R horror movie waiting here, maybe on the editing room floor, but Overlord just didn’t give me what I hoped it would.

Darke Reviews | Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Another late to the line review, due to my lovely vacation in the Seattle area. It snowed on me on Mt. Ranier. I was a happy vampire princess. Today is my first full day back and I spent the better part of 5 hours at the theatre watching movies to catch up on reviews and have even more to do tomorrow night with The Girl in the Spiders Web and Overlord releasing then. This is probably one of the most broadly appealing movies of the fall season with anticipation of it building since the first trailer dropped months ago. There was of course potential controversy as to whether or not they would deal with Mercury’s sexuality, something he kept hidden from most the better part of his life and career. Fans were ecstatic at the casting of fellow middle easterner Rami Malek in the role as the Persian lead singer. Every review I’ve come across the title of (haven’t read or watched anyones yet), has indicated this film is nothing short of amazing.

I am not going to argue with them.

For our credits we have writer Anthony McCarten (story by/screenplay by) who delivered Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour to us over the past few years; which makes him almost a specialist in the biopic field for the cinema. We also have screenplay credit going to Peter Morgan, also a biopic specialist with such films as Rush, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Frost/Nixon. These guys know their stuff and it shows in every bit of dialogue, every scene, and every bit of emotion delivered in the recommended direction given by their screenplay. They don’t shy away from controversy here or the darker elements of Mercury’s life. They make him neither hero nor villain, but a man who eventually became a legend and a Queer icon to this day.

*sigh* Ok, so I have to talk about Bryan Singer, who is our listed director here. We’ve known Singer can direct since The Usual Suspects and I have been a fan of almost every movie of his I have watched. In light of the #MeToo movement, I would be remiss to ignore his off screen antics and the accusations which go back to the early 90s. Let me make it clear, I believe the accusers. Fox must as well for they fired him from the picture back in December of last year and brought in Dexter Fletcher, an actor turned director to finish the film. The official story is Singer was erratic on set and had a fight with Malek, but Fletchers hiring was on the heels of the news breaking of the accusations about Singer coming to the public eye.  I’ll have more commentary below in the TL:DR section but suffice to say the movie was well directed.

Malek for his part as Mercury nailed it. In every capacity. He brought the charm, the body language, the wit, and the voice. He also brought the pain in the final act that cannot be ignored. Rami was a perfect casting. I first saw him in the Twilight series as an Egyptian Vampire, followed by Mr. Robot, and then his epic mo-cap performance in the video game Until Dawn. He is amazing actor that deserves more parts and hopefully he is on the Best Actor considerations lists as he rightfully earns it.  Recognition must go to the rest of “The Band” as Gwilym Lee has to take on the role of Brian May, Ben Hardy (Angel from X-Men Apocalypse), has to nail Roger Taylor, and Joseph Mazzello (Tim from Jurassic Park) has to cover John Deacon. For every bit that Malek has to carry the film as Mercury, these three men must make it feel like they are the rest of Queen and bring their own acting talents to full weight to keep up with Rami. They succeed in such a way that I forgot they were actors. When you consider how much weight the real May, Taylor, and Deacon had in the film with effort put to making sure that everything was to spec for the casting of Rami and that his performance did Freddie justice, you know they had their own thoughts on their counterparts.

The production design was top notch with a fantastic series of opening shots that bookend the film with the Live Aid performance in 1985. There is an almost surreal quality put to the film during that sequence that needs to be called out. There are other fantastic framing devices done throughout the film that would invoke my spoiler rule, but many of them just hit hard when they are done.

TL;DR

If you have been waiting for my review of this movie, you have it. That is to say go see it. It is well shot, well acted, and powerful. It doesn’t shy away from any aspect of Freddie Mercury’s life that I am aware of and is all the better for it.  The movie is amazing and left me in tears when the soft lyrics of “Who Wants to Live Forever” begin to play at one point in the movie.

Would you see it again?

Yes, with the best sound system possible. It deserves it.

Buying it?

Of course.

So…extra commentary?

Alright – if you don’t care about the behind the scenes of the movie industry, please stop here. If you want to know more about that sort of thing continue on

Singer is being put forth for a “For Your Consideration” by Fox for the Academy Award. This is a loaded gun, but I am not sure what it’s loaded with to be honest. Fox fired him from the picture, yet he has sole directing credit. Do they have a choice? Well maybe, maybe not. There might be contract information between Fox and Singer that makes this non negotiable. I know from previous films I’ve reviewed a director cannot be removed from credit unless a substantial (roughly 70% of the movie) is reshot/redone; which is how Lord and Miller were able to be removed from Solo, but Gareth Edwards remained on for Rogue One, even though Tony Gilroy came in later. So they have to keep him on the credit, which means Fletcher only did some minor work on the film. Singer didn’t remove himself or release them, which is an interesting move on his part as well.

The play by Fox here isn’t as black and white as one would think and I have a feeling there is more in the background we don’t know. So what happens if he wins? Oof.  That is an interesting question. Would the Academy even let it go up for a best director or best picture because of this and take the risks in light of #MeToo? Should or could it get a Best Picture or Best Director nod from the Academy? Objectively yes. Subjectively….no. I hate to say it but as this is a new release not something out for years, we cannot separate the art from the artist here and even as Hollywood continues to praise the likes of Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, a line must be drawn. Here is a good place to do it.

While the movie is put forward for Best Director/Picture, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts should not move it forward in these categories. Writing sure. Acting, absolutely. Cinematography – without a doubt. Just…not the other two. If it wins Best Picture, Singer would have to walk to the stage as traditionally the director accepts this.

You can see why this is a problem?

I don’t know that I will do an editorial, but there will be a lot of judging eyes on the Academy in the weeks to come as this unfolds.