Darke Reviews | Rampage (2018)

The video game movie. A long Hollywood tradition of pain and misery, with rare gems rising to the top of a pile of well something. Much like I opened with on Tomb Raider a few weeks ago there are video game movies that don’t suck; that said they usually have a story to them. There are only a few movies based on games started in the Arcade first; and we don’t talk about Double Dragon in polite company.

Yes – thats The Chairman on the right…

The hair. The eyebrow. It’s too much dahling.

So here we have Rampage. Someone, somewhere thought lets take the game of three mutated humans turned monsters beating up Illinois cities and turn it into a major motion picture event. Then someone else said “Ok. Here’s $50 million dollars.” I think I am in the wrong line of work some days when I point stuff like that out.

So should you insert a coin to start?

The movie has a total of four writing credits thus invoking my Rule of 3 for writers rooms. The story was by Ryan Engle who disappointed me with The Commuter and Non-Stop for Liam Neeson. Engle also gets a screenplay credit with three other men. Carlton Cuse (San Andreas, Brisco County Jr., Colony), Ryan J Condal (Colony,  Hercules), and Adam Sztykiel (Due Date, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip).  With this combined pedigree and multiple writers on a concept such as Rampage, this movie should be an absolute train wreck with wildly shifting tones, weirdly spliced scenes, and cringe inducing dialogue; and somehow its not.

Rather than humans who mutate into the monsters, they have animals mutate into significantly larger aggressive hybrid animals. The humans should be and largely are second fiddle to the creature carnage the movie brings. The dialogue is not much, but a few of the lines really work and will make you laugh – especially with some of the delivery. This is not a complex movie here and the concepts are simple and the writers played into those strengths to their benefit with only a handful of human driven moments that do “ok”. The real surprise was the fact the movie addressed consequence for actions (karmic and otherwise) a few times and left me and my partner for the night rather pleased.

Now the humans themselves are, ok its the Rock, you just want to see the Rock. It’s all good. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is charismatic as ever here, knows full well the movie he is in and delivers everything the trailer promised you and more. Naomi Harris does well with her role as a Doctor who had her hand in the creation of the mutagen and she  holds her own with him. The final standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( Supernatural, The Walking Dead) who also knows what sort of movie he is in and goes for the most fun, hammiest – yet entirely in world and in character – performance he could. He worried us at first, then when they let him cut loose he just is all kinds of fun.

Director Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Cats & Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore) clearly has a love for mid and late 80’s action movies. He shoots sequences that are nothing short of absurd but played straight, and straight sequences with a sense of humor. There’s an early scene (non spoiler dont worry) where a guy is handed three weapons in the span of a minute walk from his car to a chopper as if its nothing, all the while some action hero music from Predator or Commando plays in the background. If you pick up on it – you’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of it, if you don’t you will be rolling your eyes at just how close to over the top it is.

This of course brings us to our creatures, Lizzie, Ralph and George. They look GOOD. Yes, you know they are CG, but the effects team blended them into the real world rather well. Your brain tells you this is computer, but it is interacting with its environment like its there effectively. The people in that environment look part of the scene (most of the time) as well. Its good use of colour correction where they brought up saturation levels just right.  While were on the topic of technicals, the action is magnificently glorious and easy to follow. There sound designers deserve a raise as during loud sequences you can often hear someone in the background saying something entertaining. You will find plenty of game easter eggs as well to a pleasing degree.

TL:DR?

Rampage gave me everything I wanted and a good bit more. This is the grab the popcorn and a drink of choice, sit back, turn the brain off and enjoy for an hour and a half. There’s not much more to say about it – it is just sorta fun and kept the promises the trailers made.

So should I see it?

Yeah. It’s a good time at any price. I would be curious how DBox or XD sound plays with it, I think they’d enhance the experience.

Will you see it again?

Being honest with myself, probably not in theatres, but before you ask yes I am going to buy it.

So the video game movie is good?

Yes, because it doesn’t try to rise above its overly silly concept but also doesn’t deride it either. It embraces it and all its merits and flaws and runs with it with abandon that should be cherished. It’s not quality cinema folks. Some movies can just be there to purely entertain and this does that in spades.

If you have the time and inclination go on a Rampage this weekend.

 

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Darke Reviews | Tomb Raider (2018)

Ah the video game movie. A classic in the cinema, usually panned by critics and laughed at by audiences. Movie studios have a history of abusing the video game titles to the point that the reputation has stuck, but let me present you with some that actually don’t suck.

  • Silent Hill – Not the sequel with its hug off.
  • Mortal Kombat – fight me on this one. Its fun. It hits the beats of the game. Christopher Lambert is awesome.
  • Resident Evil – again the first one. Captures the spirit of the game. The sequel isn’t completely awful. The rest…oof.
  • Tomb Raider – the original Angelina Jolie one. Watch it again and tell me exactly how off it is from some of the ridiculous premises of the video game series itself?
  • Warcraft – It was dull, not bad.

So now we have a new Tomb Raider, clearly based on the the 2013 relaunch of the franchise and with a surprisingly high budget of $94 million – that is still less than was spent on Assassin’s Creed.

Should it have stayed buried?

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, who makes this her first script to screen. It doesn’t look like it well be her last though, as she’s attached to cartoon to film adaptation Visionaries, ROM, MASK, and comic book films Silver & Black and Captain Marvel, and a 2021 Dungeons and Dragons movie?  With this list, I had to dig and find a bio for her to make sure it wasn’t some kind of Alan Smithee, but there’s even an Interview. Which is fantastic as we need more female screenwriters in the geek zone. I’d love to interview her some time myself. She sounds awesome.

Also on the script duty is Evan Daugherty, who gave us Snow White and the Huntsman, Divergent, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The picture of this movie comes together now. Geneva also gets a screenplay credit, along with Alastair Siddons (thats an awesome name) who makes this his first theatrical outing with only Tresspass Against Us (2016 film with Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson).

They pick up and took running with the task of literally adapting the 2013 game story to the screen and tripped.  They did get the new Lara right personality wise. They got her first kill right (guys not a spoiler. You see her fire the bow at people…you think she missed?). They just forgot about a few things in the process. Getting to the point for one as its nearly 40 minutes into the movie before they make it to the island and while some establishing of who Lara is is required it drags too long. Then once on the island, they neglect to truly show her resourcefulness which is one of the key elements of the game. No one can reasonably expect to see her dealing with wolves, deer, rummaging through chests and upgrading her weapons and equipment for the two hours, but – escalation would have been nice. Showing she’s not just book smart, athletic, but also cunning. They really did forget that.

I don’t mind some of the character study and the reluctant hero, but there was too much of that and not enough well….tomb raiding.

Director Roar Uthaug gets some of the blame for that. I am a fan of his 2015 film The Wave, which is about a landslide caused Tsunami in his native Norway. It too is more of a character study with good pacing around that, then the event , then the after effect. Had I known the director going in I may have managed my expectations a bit more, but it wouldn’t have changed my opinion too much. Between the script and the overall pacing of the film, plus an Act II plot that is totally unneeded the movie just comes across kind of flat.

Not that Alicia Vikander doesn’t sell being Lara. She does. She has the physicality I was hoping for, she happens to be one of the most beautiful women in the world (in my opinion), can act and is able to deliver on parts of the script or scenes that are otherwise weak. She feels like a reasonably real person in this rather than pure action heroine. She makes a fantastic Lara and yes, is better than Jolie in the part. Dominic West (Centurion, Punisher War Zone) is mostly wasted in his role as Lord Croft, as is Walton Goggins. I like Goggins, his turn on Justified has given him plenty of opportunities on the big screen such as The Hateful Eight, Maze Runner, and American Ultra. He tries but the script and probably some editing hamper him from fully realizing as the villain.

Which brings us to the technicals which I just have to sigh. The Visual effects are better than the first trailer and in 3D some of them look rather nice. The pacing is horrific however, which comes down to the editing and scenes decided to keep in. Which brings me to something that I think half the critics will pick on when they get the chance – DONT OPEN WITH NARRATION IF YOU ARE GOING TO INCLUDE IT WORD FOR WORD 10 MINUTES LATER. There will be some who complain the fight scenes are too dark, but I am oddly ok with it when its night and you are fighting. What I am not ok with is shaky cam, plus night, plus quick cuts. Pick One. Pick two maybe, but you can’t have all three and let your fight be appreciated.

TL;DR?

It’s not the best video game movie. It still isn’t the worst. It comes across as a solid meh. Tomb Raider commits the worst sin it possibly could – it was dull. There’s joke reviewers make when you do remakes and reboots, don’t include homage to the original material – it just make us think of a better movie. The same is kind of true here. There are so many calls to the game, but they fail to commit to actually delivering on the promise the game did. They fail to give us tomb raiding, clever and educated Lara. All I was thinking of watching this was how much I’d rather be playing the game.

They tried guys. They did. I give them credit for it, because I can see the effort put in. I can see what they intended to do, but I have to judge on what they did do.

Should I see it?

Matinee at the very best. 3D not needed, otherwise you can wait til it’s on Netflix or your source of choice.

Will you see it again?

Not in theatres no.

So you’re buying it?

There’s enough I do like, despite the dissection above that odds are good I will.

Ok, but its a video game adaptation what did you expect?

I get that. I do. You can’t take a 10 hour plus game and cram it into 2 hours, but you could have done it better. When 40 minutes are wasted with set up and establishing the character in ways that could have been done shorter or more effectively. When you don’t fully commit to your adaptation in a meaningful way that embraces some of the true supernatural weirdness of the games you’ve done some thing wrong.

How does it compare to the other two?

Since the reboot takes a more realistic tone while still embracing the supernatural it’s not apples to apples. The original movies were over the top and so were the games. It worked. This just doesn’t quite as well. It’s watchable, but not nearly as fun as watching Angelina Jolie and Sir Jorah flirt while threatening each other.

Next week?

I am bracing for the impact that is Pacific Rim 2. I don’t think it looks great from the trailers on a visual front and when I want to see Giant Robots beating on Giant Monsters and other Giant Robots – you need to LOOK good. It’s a time I want some style over substance.

Darke Reviews | Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Final review of January. Final (?) chapter of the Resident Evil franchise which began 15 years prior.  It seems this month, which is usually relegated to dump slots for the studios has, in addition to its usual role, begun serving this year as the franchise test for long running, often lamented, or forgotten franchises. We had Underworld, xXx, and now this. To their credit each of them have been able to maintain their original star, despite waning bankability as a name. Technically Diesel is still bankable, but only within known franchises. His forrays outside of his own franchise have not done well, even if they were fun. Granted the franchises he is in (Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy) might as well print money. Jovovich is not so lucky, and I was surprised to find she hadn’t been in a major project for a few years. So this makes her first major on screen appearance in almost 5 years, again as Alice.

So should this movie have been put down before it started?

The film is written and directed by the man who started it all…and somehow continued it all – Paul W.S. Anderson, not to be confused with critical darling Wes Anderson. Paul, is also the one who…gifted us..yes thats a good word, with the Death Race remake and AVP: Alien vs Predator and Pompeii. Conversely, he also gave us from the directors chair, Soldier and Event Horizon. In my review of Pompeii I covered that I find most of his bad movies guilty pleasures. Actually, they aren’t bad – they just aren’t cinematic masterpieces. Which is acceptable, as some movies are there to help you escape. It’s why, despite critical and audience appraise I won’t see Hidden Figures. The story is incredible, the acting incredible, the pain very real. The history more relevant than ever, but I often find myself in the movie to escape the real world and real world scenarios. Even with that need for escapism I expect, and so should you, a certain level of quality and care.

There’s something of that here. I get the impression, unlike Uwe Boll, he isn’t doing it for a paycheck. There’s a passion here for this world and this universe he’s crafted over six movies. Granted, from a writing standpoint he’s retconned (Retroactive Continuity adjustment) multiple elements of the story between 2002 and 2017 and this is no exception. The first 8 minutes of the movie, yes I checked my phone, are literally retelling and adjusting the story accordingly to bring everyone up to speed – much like the last two Underworld movies did.  I wonder if anyone is planning to see this who hasn’t watched the others though? The plot is about as thin as cheese cloth, but unlike the past several films when it comes to our heroine herself and her arc – there’s caring involved. I was pleasantly surprised to find that her arc was brought full circle and while she’s still a killing machine – she is not a totally invincible killing machine. I won’t say there’s a lot of complexity but there is a much slower focus as the movie progresses.

Now….while the storytelling and pacing of the movie are surprisingly richer than I thought, the um…camera work for fights and monsters. Yeah, so that was a choice.  It is next to impossible to see what, if anything, is going on for 90% of the fights and creature shots. I understand that the budget is lower, I understand you have a grand vision, but I would caution you to to figure out how to make more practical. If you can’t make it look good – figure out another way!

From an acting perspective – it’s Resident Evil 6. None of the performances are going to really help the careers, buuuuuut – they won’t hurt them either. Everyone is absolutely serviceable from an acting standpoint. Why am I not spelling each and everyone of them out? If you’ve seen the franchise you know why – if not, well…I won’t say more. There’s one call out however, and it isn’t Ruby Rose. It’s our new Red Queen as played by Ever Anderson. Yes, that is her name and yes, she is the daughter of the director and Milla who have been married since 2009. She actually does a good job as the homicidal AI and brings a surprising element to her. So nicely done there as she still had to have the chops to pull it off on her own, even with her father as the director.

TL;DR?

I rather enjoyed Fallout: Raccoon City. It was a good wrap to the franchise if they keep their word. It is not a good movie, it is certainly not a bad movie – but I found I was not rolling my eyes through it. Some of the effects are good and the chances taken with the characters actually work surprisingly well. It bothered to care to set a good pace and when it goes practical does so nicely. There was real tension and some of the camera work was not horrible.

This probably comes in as the 3rd best of the franchise for how it looks and feels and the overall effort put into it.

Not a bad way to end January

Should you see it?

Do you like the franchise? Yes. Just…not in 3-D

Otherwise – no.

Will you buy it?

Yeah, I have the others so might as well. Beyond that no.

Anything else?

I really hope this is the last one. Please?

Darke Reviews | Assassins Creed (2016)

Nothing is True.
Everything is Permitted.

Forewarning. I have played through the Ezio Trilogy of the video game twice. Played through AC3 once which was a slog and lost interest during AC4 as I didn’t find the actual plot engaging. That’s right folks, this is a video game turned movie. We all know there are only a handful of exceptions to the rule that these will be horrible.

  • Silent Hill
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Warcraft (it wasn’t horrible!…just not great)
  • Resident Evil (again not horrible. even good)

You can argue Mortal Kombat, but I’ll fight you. It’s fun. It’s actually pretty good for the 90’s. The litany of crimes against video games largely began with Super Mario Bros., but really took off with Uwe Boll rampage through the German tax code and movie industry with beauties like Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, and more.

So does Assassin’s Creed break the curse or should it have stayed in the shadows?

Looking behind the curtain as usual, we have the invocation of the three writer rule. Michael Lesslie (Macbeth 2015), Adam Cooper (Exodus Gods and Kings, Allegiant), Bill Collage (Exodus Gods and Kings, Allegiant). Now Allegiant was so bad and droll I didn’t even have the energy to write a review for it. But did they do a bad job here? Actually…mostly no. They went with as an original story as they could tell. You see when adapting a story based game like Assassins Creed, or say Mass Effect, you have to be original. You won’t tell the story that got to the heart of a player that made it their game. You need to make it YOUR story, but in their universe. They succeeded here. It has all the right story elements to tell me this is AC, but their own story for it – mostly.

Where they fail though is continuing to use the Apple of Eden McGuffin. They could have made up their own artifact that Abstergo and the Templars wanted and the Assassins have to protect. Slight spoiler, but if you didn’t figure it out from the trailer – the Assassins are the good guys. The logic fails sadly extend to the characters who shift motivations inexplicably and without sufficient justification. The other, perhaps biggest failure is the contrast between past and present. People play the game to spend 80% of their time in the historical period, the other 20% is dealing with the framework and setup for how it all happens – the Templars & Assassins in the modern age still clawing for supremacy over each other and the lives of the planet. The movie reverses this with more time in the modern period than the past.

Sure in the past they give us beautiful fan service that the players of the games will like (or wince depending on what you thought of the section). You have your carriage chases, leaps of faith, rooftop runs, blades, darts, ropes, all of it. It made me happy to see so much of the game realized in a live action environment, but this excitement was dampened by poor filming and bringing me back to the “real world” in the middle of scenes.

Which leads into the next failure, the directing. Justin Kurzel. Director of the Snowtown Murders and Macbeth (2015 version) shows what I can only judge as having been done in an altered state. He apes styles of three or four other directors, that shouldn’t be combined together. This is where production behind the scenes things lie to us. Knowing that the Leap of Faith was done practically was amazing. The final execution could have been CGI and we may not have noticed due to the intense colour correction, computer enhancements, and outright computer built worlds and lighting. Oh the lighting was so horrific through this. There were a handful of inspired shots that meant little because they were ruined by either a bad cut or bad effect. I mean when 2004’s Nightwatch (really good by the way) has a better pan down on a mass combat than this does twelve years of technology later – we have a problem. The colour correction made me want to join the Brotherhood and off someone.

The acting is…flat. No one is in it. It’s not as bad as M. Night Shaylaman directing flat, but not too far off. That’s a horrible thing to do to Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Jeremy Iron’s doesn’t care anymore and quite frankly neither do we. He’s just fun to watch when he’s allowed to go full Ham on Rye. Sadly he does not here. What impresses me though is how diverse the cast is; while sadly the mains are Caucasian, the rest has some really good diversity and characters that are at least interesting if not under utilized. I really wanted more of Ariane Labed’s character Maria (the awesome female assassin from the trailer) as she was engaging and believable.

Another point in the movies favor is that in all the past life sequences they speak Spanish and Latin. They didn’t shortcut this and I have to give them props here. The costumes were good. The idea on how to visualize the Animus was kinda cool. The city running scenes were what I expected and looked appropriate.

 

TL;DR?

Assassins work in the shadows to protect the light. The movie wasn’t quite ready for the light. It’s not horrific and I was entertained for the better part of the viewing – but it also wasn’t that good either. The directing and camera work were largely poor and the CGI environments were under rendered. It’s surprising to find out this movie cost $125 million to make because I cannot tell you where the money went. Character motivations were all over the place without a good plot reason to support them. The nods to the video game are good and there’s some nice little easter eggs.

It isn’t a crime against the AC Games -it’s actually very true to them –  or movies in general, but it also isn’t worth a theatrical viewing either.

It’s not great, its barely good – but at least it wasn’t BAD.

Should you see it?

Netflix, streaming, rental…yeah if you like the games.

Going to buy it?

Probably…depends how I feel the day it comes out. May wait for discount bin.

So…double feature?

I watched this BEFORE Passengers, so I wouldn’t let my feelings for that garbage interfere with this. It did however make me want to play the game again this weekend.

Anything else?

It’s cute they think they will get a sequel.

Darke Reviews | Warcraft (2016)

Tired of me yet? 3 movies. 3 days. 3 reviews. The roller coaster that is my life has had my butt in a theatre all this week, even the guy checking me in at the movies tonight asked me, “hey weren’t you in that same theatre last night?” Thanks Ben. Now…we have a movie based on a video game. Probably one of the most popular video games ever made, though myself I have never played it. I know plenty of people who did, my game was City of Heroes, and I was a one game kinda gal. So much like with books, I have no experience, no background, no anything about the lore here to make me like it more or less based on changes made to achieve film. This is the extent to which I know Warcraft: Slaughter Your World.

Of course, we cannot forget that video games have a sordid history in being converted to film, with far more misses than hits as Hollywood really just doesn’t respect the material even if it is there. Don’t get me started on Uwe Boll, he might challenge me to a boxing match.

Does Warcraft break the mold or are audiences going to need heals after seeing it?

Based on the characters by Blizzard game designer Chris Metzen, Warcraft was adapted to the screen by screenwriters Charles Leavitt (In the Heart of the Sea, Seventh Son, K-PAX) and Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code). While I did not personally see Heart of the Sea, I heard pretty consistently it was a slog, I know that Seventh Son was so bad they pushed it out a full year from its initial release date and hoped no one would notice. Jones for his part does have the critically acclaimed Moon in 2009, Source Code was pretty bland. Why am I focusing on these failures so much? Because they hold one of the most, if not the most significant flaw of the film. I can feel it’s running time. What is worse it felt *longer* than it actually was, like extended cut Return of the King long.

Story wise, it’s ok. Having no familiarity with the terminology beyond Horde and Alliance didn’t really hamper me. I pretty much was able to figure out everything in time with the movie and they (wisely) did not over explain anything. Point in fact, they barely explain anything at all. This is a strength of the film, letting the story flow pretty naturally and hope the audience follows along with it. The downside of that is that it has a lot of ground to cover so the film ends up stuffed to the gills with material. Had it had exposition as well….? Yeeesh.  There are a few beats of the film that fall flat and a hole or two you could fly a Dragon through; conversely, there are moments that had everyone laugh, cheer, or go “oooh” with a wince. Which means they drew the audience in – this is good.

Continuing into our bag of holding, we have other mixed blessings. I was only able to stand a single human in the entire movie. One. The friggin mage. Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief) plays Khadgar, and while a little flat I at least found I liked his character at least. Travis Fimmel (Ragnar from Vikings) as Anduin Lothar is just insufferable; which may be how he is written, but the man can act and he was all over the place which I lay on Jones head in directing. Dominic Cooper (Preacher, Dracula Untold) as King Llane Wrynn was mostly wasted, but gave a solid performance. Even Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Pandorum) didn’t quite deliver as I know he can in the role of the warlock Medivh.

The same, cannot be said of the Orcs. Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) absolutely sells it as Durotan leader of one of the Orc tribes. Daniel Wu (Europa Report) also nails the voice and mo cap work as the evil Gul’dan. Clancy Brown could have phoned in his performance of the warband leader Blackhand, but didn’t and we are all thankful. Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, 2 Guns)  starts off strong as Garona, but gets a little simpering into Act III which was bothersome for an otherwise awesome character, but overall she was a solid performance.

As with the game, since you could play either side they have to show both sides, with the Horde side being “evil” but not…bad? Due to that and who they focused on as characters I found myself preferring the Horde arc and characters a thousand times more than I did the Alliance side.

The one technical aspect I was worried about I needn’t have been. I forgot I was looking at Motion Capture CGI creations on more than one occasion through the film. It wasn’t flawless, but it was amazingly well done computer work to render what they did so consistently and be able to do so in wide daylight shots. The scenery, while being almost entirely CG was expansive and to the credit of the writers of both game and film, really sold me on a world that I could envision. They may have failed in other areas, but they did give me a living, breathing world that I could see, understand, and even would want to interact with. The fights are both watchable and in some cases brutal, but there was a distinct lack of hyperactive shaky cam.

TL; DR?

The movie is a solid…”It’s ok.”. There are so many nods and winks to game and lore fans, even I who knows little could see them. It runs long and flattens in the wrong spots sadly. It is absolutely not the worst video game film ever made. It would, and should, make it into anyone’s top 5 on production value alone. The money sunk into this shows and I am happier for it. It bored me at times, but when it wasn’t I was engaged.

I’d like to say I liked it more, but I didn’t. The fans around me did though. It *is* good, and above a meh. If I had been engaged by the characters on both sides more I think I would rate it higher. I do think it will make bank though.

Should you see it?

If you aren’t seeing Now You See Me 2? Sure. Matinee only 3-D optional.  If you are a fan of the game and lore: See it. 3-D. It was worth it in that aspect.

Will Jessica buy it?

Honestly? Yeah probably. It is something to throw on in the background while you are focusing on other things. You’ll look up and smile at a moment or pause to watch a fight.

Which side would you pick?

My brain says Horde, but my heart goes Night Elf.

What’s next?

I get next week off as only Central Intelligence and Finding Dory are coming out. Reviews return with The Neon Demon and Independence Day Resurgence. Followed quickly by Legend of Tarzan and Ghostbusters.

Darke Reviews | Pixels (2015)

I suppose that title is off isn’t it? Apologies for that. This is not a review so much as an ask and a notice given to my good readers.

Do not see this movie.
Do not see *any* Adam Sandler movie.

Much as I did with Exodus: Gods and Kings, I am boycotting this film and all future Adam Sandler films. It is not because I do not like comedy, for while I am not a fan I do actually enjoy some comedy. Point in fact I have enjoyed several of his previous films, such as Hotel Transylvania, The Waterboy, and 50  First Dates. The problem is Sandler now. I do not know what has happened. I do not know precisely when humor turned to racist, misogynistic, mean spirited caricature.  Allow me to give specific examples as I prefer to give details when I have them:

Native Americans walk off Adam Sandler movie

“The script called for native women’s names such as “Beaver’s Breath” and “No Bra” and an actress portraying an Apache woman to squat and urinate while smoking a peace pipe, ICTMN reported.

“When I began doing this film, I had an uneasy feeling inside of me and I felt so conflicted. … We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave,’ ” said Allison Young, a Navajo and one of the actors who left the set.”

Now it could be argued he is trying to do a send up similar to Blazing Saddles, a great comedy from 1974. A true satire of the western film and its tropes. The problem is, it has been done and it was done better in 1974. Westerns by and large do not exist now with most millennials probably having never seen one. Blazing Saddles is a classic. It could not, and should not, be made today. The deeply racist tones of the movie were needed then as we were still as a nation coming to grips with these topics. In fact, watching the film it more picks on the Caucasians for being racist (and stupid). Granted now, we are *still* dealing with these things, but such a film now would come across both bitter and political.

This, based on the reports from the set by the Native Americans was actually showing a large degree of disrespect to the culture and the people who were being portrayed – making them the butt of the joke rather than the ones who get to poke at the idiocy.

Someone might say – well he is just producing? Nope. He’s a writer on this. So he knows. Of course, it gets worse.

If you are familiar with the term black face – you know how god awful it is. The idea of using make up to make a Caucasian (most often) black. The recent issue with Rachel Dolezal as a prime example, it is in no way by any rational individual to consider black face socially acceptable.  So is red face acceptable? Making an individual “look native american”…

If you think the answer is yes. You are part of the problem.

“According to an on-set pro, members of the makeup team have been darkening actors of various ethnicities (including black and Asian talent) to make them appear Native American.

One of the actors, Allison Young, confirmed to MSNBC that makeup was used on talent. “I’m full-blooded Navajo and they bronzed me. I was quite confused,” Young told the network. “That says something when the cultural advisor for the film quits because he’s offended.”

Source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/adam-sandlers-ridiculous-six-makeup-792582

Ok he is racist, got that covered; so why is he sexist?

Well assuming some of the comments above didn’t illustrate this, lets go to a more recent story from just last month

Rose McGowan fired by agent calling out Adam Sandlers sexism

The casting note was very specific. “Please make sure to read the attached script before coming in so you understand the context of the scenes,” it read. “Wardrobe note: Black (or dark) form-fitting tank that shows off cleavage (push-up bras encouraged). And formfitting leggings or jeans. Nothing white.”

In hindsight, McGowan says, “It was just so dumb. I was offended by the stupidity more than anything. I was offended by the fact that went through so many people’s hands and nobody red flagged it. This is normal to so many people. It was probably even a girl that had to type it up. It’s institutionally OK.”

 

I’m sorry? I thought auditions were you know about acting and how well you could do the job, not how good you look in a push up bra. Now while some roles may call for specific body types, this to me does not seem needed when you need an actress first and a pair of boobs second? But then again apparently Sandler wants the T&A over acting.

TL:DR

Ultimately he and the Hollywood machine that continues to allow him is problematic. He continues to churn out horrible movie after horrible movie because people pay money to see them. If you think the above behavior is not a problem, then go ahead and see the movie. If you do think it is a problem – please see something else. Please stop giving him money.
My predictions for you who do see the movie:

  • Women who are nothing but sex objects to be lusted after
  • Women who are seen as little more than a prize or a trophy
  • Women who are considered nags and need to but “cut down” by the humourous men
  • Women with no agency
  • Bitter, sophomoric comedy from Sandler and James
  • Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad trying their best and likely being the only bright spots in the movie.

I understand the drive to see this movie for the 80’s video game nostalgia. I was torn on this simply because of that. I just cannot in good conscience see this film or support Sandler in any way. I ask that you join me in this as he needs to be stopped in a meaningful way.

If you really, really want to see Pixels this weekend – watch the original short. It has more heart than I think this movie will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUnyUrA34bQ

Photo Credit Sara Cremer

Darke Reviews | Silent Hill (2006)

This review is specifically for one of the people in my life that I can say I love and it is wonderful to say that and it not be weird for anyone involved. The cover art today is a sign she made for today’s beautiful annual event. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is my favourite holiday ever. Growing up as a child with the previous day as my birthday meant cake and presents one day and costumes and candy the next. How can that possibly go wrong? A night where we as children are allowed to be out at night and to celebrate the night. A night where our imaginations and creativity are rewarded. A night where we can become the nightmare or heroes of our own stories to face them or embrace them. What in the name of all the old gods and goddesses is possibly wrong with this?

So when we talk nightmares, let us talk then about a video game that has caused nightmares in many. My ex said this was one of the scariest games she had ever played or watched someone play. So eventually someone was going to make it into a movie. Video Games to movies do not have a particularly stellar track record. Mortal Kombat is probably the least offensive of them, with Resident Evil a close second, and Tomb Raider vying for third place. Of course Uwe Boll got his hands on so many games it hurts on a primal level. This isn’t to say the movies that are made from video games aren’t sometimes entertaining, Doom is positively entertaining, Need for Speed was entertaining; but rather that they aren’t just that good. Frequently this is blamed on the source material being “just a game”, to which I say rubbish. Yes, first and second gen games had the thinnest backstory possible. Hell some third, fourth, and even recent gen games are pretty thin excuses for their own existence in the story department. Then we have games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, even Assassins Creed (II mostly…I hate 3 and 4), and the recent Tomb Raider game. Games these days probably have more plot and story than films do (thank you Bioware and SquareEnix). Somewhere along the way though, and I am no video game expert by a long shot, Konami put a game out.

Konami the studio who gave us Contra, Frogger, and Dance Dance Revolution delivered unto us a horror franchise. I know little to nothing about the game, so will only judge it as a movie, but I am told it is relatively faithful to the setting material. When I spoke of atmosphere in the Fog movie review I spoke of how important it is. The makers of Silent Hill understood this. I know that the game is inspired by real life Centralia Pennsylvania, a place on Jessica’s short list for urban exploring, a town almost literally swallowed into hell by a mine fire that is expected to burn for years to come – thats where the similarities end.

And you thought the roads in your town were bad?

And you thought the roads in your town were bad?

The movie focuses on the story of Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) and her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland). Sharon has been having dreams of a place called Silent Hill, dreams of course being a light word for nightmares of extraordinary strength. Rose takes her daughter, without her husband (Sean Bean) Christopher’s consent. Whenever she mentions Silent Hill, people get weirded out, except curious officer Cybil (Laurie Holden), who chases the woman into Silent Hill. Driving faster than she can see proves a mistake and Rose wrecks her car at the entrance to the town. When she wakes her daughter is gone and she is in a grey scale landscape of ash and fog. Chasing a girl she thinks is her daughter through the streets of the seemingly deserted town she hears air raid sirens go off. Then the real nightmares begin.

Keeping with my normal rules of spoiler free, even though this one is past embargo range, I want people to enjoy this film. Enjoy the mystery of the truth of who and what brought Sharon to Silent Hill. The truth of what Silent Hill is and of course…the horror of what it is. Ok, one spoiler and a mystery all it’s own is …how did Sean Bean survive the film? This is Silent flippin Hill.

Lets talk about the writing for a moment, we have Roger Avary as the sole credit on the film. Avary has writing credits on True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction, with an Oscar win for the last. He also has a BAFTA for it and a Saturn Award nomination for his work on the mo-cap Beowulf  with Neil Gaiman. What I am saying here is the man knows how to write. He took whatever the game had and wove a rather complex intertwining story of past, present, and future within Silent Hill. I am not talking time travel, but just the levels that the film operates on simultaneously. The story nails it and does something few do, it makes me uncomfortable at times. It also makes me sympathize with the bad guy in this one, but I think you should. Even the way the story progresses makes it still feel like a video game but a logical extension for a running plot as well. When characters find items, use them, or add them to “inventory” it makes sense and feels natural. If you are a gamer, you see it for what it is and it’s hard not  to smile at it.

Taking this script and making it a reality was the job of Christophe Gans. I love this man. I love his work. He doesn’t have much and I consider that a shame. Brotherhood of the Wolf was the first film of his I saw and was a beautiful piece of foreign film making. Five years after he was given this script; and just recently did a take on Beauty and the Beast (which I desperately want to see). We now return to our conversation about atmosphere and sweet ladies of the inferno does he create it. When it is light in the town of Silent Hill, there is the weight of fog and ash that surrounds everything. This place feels like it is on the edge of something dark already just from that alone. Then when it goes dark…you are made uncomfortable. It is wrong and you know it. This is Hellraiser territory at times and you can’t help but shift in your seat once or twice after those air raid sirens blare. The performances he elicits out of his actors are incredible, even if some of them reach campy at times, but the work with Mitchell and Ferland is excellent. Proof that yes, child actors work. Proof that a good director can turn great performances from children. His choices on camera work are also incredible as well, putting them in places and moving them in ways that truly inform the story and help push it and us along on this trip where I think even Dante would go “Pace!”

As for the actors, Radha Mitchell is our center of the story, a mother desperately trying to save her child mentally, physically, and spiritually. She is almost a typical last girl that we see in other films, except she begins strong and only gets stronger as the film progresses. The lengths the town (yes it’s a character all it’s own) drives her to are inhuman. The actress performs marvelously and I wish we got more of her in films. Sure we got her in Olympus has Fallen and Man on Fire, but we also saw her in the original Pitch Black – where she was also very fun to watch. Her…sidekick(?) for lack of a better word is Walking Dead’s Andrea Laurie Holden, so spoiler (rollover) you can watch her die horrifically here too? She is mostly a nick of time side kick of usefulness than anything else, but does fairly well here. Deborah Kara Unger (The Game, Payback), plays the mysterious Dahlia a figure who seems immune to the darkness for unknown reasons. Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact, Sorcerers Apprentice) plays the leader of the people of Silent Hill and I think may be channeling Piper Laurie from Carrie for the role. If the majority of the weight falls on Radha, then the remainder falls on Jodelle Ferland (Cabin in the Woods, Paranorman) for her minimal screen time. She handles Sharon well and has to do a lot with very little, but it works none the less.

Now, I talked about how Silent Hill itself is a character? Alright, I will say this first, the CGI here is kinda weak sometimes verging on SyFy weak. The practical though? Incredible. Production designer Carol Spier, who also gave us Pacific Rim and Carrie was a miracle worker. A black miracle perhaps, but miracle none the less. She took a Norman Rockwell town and in daylight it looks broken, in the grey ashfall it looks weighty and wrong, and in the dark is a special hell. The raw amount of practical choices here out weigh any horrific CG work for me. It is no surprise to me that I see Patrick Tatopoulos (Underworld, Stargate, Face Off, Solomon Kane) name on the Creature and Special Make up designer credit, specifically on the Nurses, and it – Pyramid Head. I had no experience with the game, but this thing was a monstrous force on screen that by careful choices of its creators carried real weight that made you know things were about to go terrifyingly wrong. Paul Jones appears to be the other creative lead, considering one of his first films were Waxwork, Hellraiser II, and Nightbreed I can see that he has specialties and they are only getting better. The town is a real thing here because of these people and their crews. It is a living, breathing, entity. It draws and drives the story forward on its own pace as much as any decision the characters make.

Before I get to the TL;DR on one of my longest reviews ever, I want to talk about the music. Pure atmosphere. In another film it could be lighter but when matched with the imagery here the word haunting comes to mind.

 

 

TL;DR

This would make my top 10 list of best horror movies. Many would disagree, but I distinctly remember walking from the theatre with my friend Kevin and looking at him going. “I feel…uncomfortable.”

I wasn’t scared, but I was disturbed. I think that counts for something special here. There is imagery, scenes, and shots in the movie that deliberately are crafted to be unpleasant and uncomfortable. It was just that kind of film where my skin was crawling a bit as I walked into a cool April evening. I cannot complain about a movie that I can so distinctly remember how it made me feel and the night as I left it.

I happily and eagerly recommend this film for October viewing, or viewing on a nice foggy night.

Should you watch Silent Hill? Absolutely, but keep the light switch handy.

 

PS Spoiler Rollover:

I agree with Alessa…and that which became Alessa. I understand her and was cheering for her. Rose’s decision would be mine.