Darke Reviews | Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

2nd review of the year. Only took a few weeks for the cinematic ball to get rolling to things I want to see. Per the usual rules, I have not read the book here – either of them. Either being Jane Austens original Pride and Prejudice or Seth Grahame-Smith’s zombie “cover” of her material. Now SGS is known to us thanks to the train wreck that was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, and I was thankful to not see his name in the writing or directors credit. He may write a good novel, but not so much on the film material. Unsurprisingly my tastes do not go for the period or romantic dramatic style film, so Austen and her body of work is and shall remain a mystery to me for some time. I did, however, watch Pride and Prejudice (2005 Kiera Knightley/Matthew Macfadyen) a few weeks ago when a friend was over and put it on while I was playing Fallout. I admit. I enjoyed it far more than I ever anticipated. It was shot so remarkably well, music, acting, everything top notch. I have absolutely no idea how that director gave us last years Pan.

So how was this movie?

Well, we’ve covered who wrote the book, who added zombies to the book, and who shouldn’t touch it as a movie. The man who did is named Burr Steers, as both screenplay credit and director. Not familiar with the name? Don’t expect you to be with two Zac Efron movies, no one I know of saw to his credit, 17 again and Charlie St. Cloud. Having watched the 2005 film adaptation made me judge what I saw far less harshly than I would. The dialogue was stilted, the actors stiff as a corpse, and the pacing was beyond awkward. Just like the source material. Honestly, the ability to match parallels between the last adaptation of the real source material and this one really allowed me to acknowledge the designs in this movie which would be painful otherwise were purely intentional. Changes must be made to incorporate zombies into the structure and with that a new world history which is glossed over nicely; but all in all the film does a remarkable job of being in step with the materials previously published. A feat that must be given credit to Seth Grahame-Smith and Steers himself.

From an actors point of view, Lily James shines. I thought she was a saving grace in Cinderella and I can tell now the critique there squarely falls on the production. The movie lives and breathes around her performance; she is as capable of the romance, the language, and action simultaneously. She does quite a bit with her eyes, which is a requirement for the role of Elizabeth Bennet. She was absolutely believable for both her battle prowess and will. I really want her to have a long and distinguished career in good movies; though her next film has Jai Courtney so I worry there. Sam Riley, Diaval from Maleficent, whom I loved there and love here. What is it with the leads in this film being the standouts in previous Disney live-action adaptations?  His Mister…sorry Colonel Darcy, is engaging despite the required stiffness. He too does a lot with subtle expressions that are all too intentional and very well delivered. Two other roles are also handled well by Douglas Booth (Jupiter Ascending) as Mr. Bingley and Jack Huston (George Wickham); both of whom I could deal with more of.

Rounding out the cast in supporting roles are some true heavies who have minor, but important roles, such as The Doctor (Matt Smith) as Parson Collins, and two Game of Thrones alumni in Charles Dance and Lena Headey. Dance gets to be nice this time as Mister Bennet, while Heady continues to be one of the scariest people on screen as Lady Catherine deBourgh. All three castings were absolutely perfect and all three easily let you know THEY were on screen in just the right ways.

Costuming was solid, a little too much emphasis on being sexy a couple of times, but overall beautiful as the weapons being carried. Sets were good, but I could tell when the budget was thin as some shots that were supposed to be different looked the same just from another angle; but I could be wrong. The fight choreography was good and gave us a scene that in my mind rivals the Zorro fight between Banderas and Zeta-Jones. A little more steady cam would have been nice. Some more creativity in the shots would have been nice beyond the opening sequence. Transitions were handled really well. The make up effects were also top notch. There’s a lot of trainees in the credits, but the film really was one of the better looking zombie films I’ve seen.


For a movie that has been in production hell and switched directors multiple times; this is actually pretty good. The more I talk about it the more I find myself liking it and overlooking its flaws – which are there. It isn’t risky. It isn’t particularly daring with a PG-13 rating, but despite that…it’s watchable.

That said, this is a Zombie movie for fans of Pride and Prejudice. This is not necessarily a zombie movie for someone who hates P&P or otherwise can’t stand a more british drama style pacing. If you DO like Downton Abbey or other British drama’s and also like Zombies this may be right up your alley.

It wasn’t particularly scary or funny, but it was entertaining. I enjoyed myself and really isn’t that what you are supposed to do at the movies?


Darke Reviews – Underworld Awakening (2012)

I’ve decided Mondays this month shall be Underworld related. Unsurprisingly I own all the Underworld franchise films and have at least one poster from the series on my walls in my house. There was a time when I was playing City of Heroes I would watch Underworld and Boondock Saints every other day….for three months. So with that in mind, and the fact that I haven’t reviewed any of these films I am going to review them each monday this month, but in reverse order. Why reverse order? Why not? The closer we get to Halloween the more awesome the movie gets? It just happened to be the film Jess grabbed from her DVD shelf? Pretty much…a mix and match of those answers.

So, how is the 4th installment of the Underworld franchise?

The first warning comes in that there are a total of 9 credits related to writing. Nine.


This blow is softened only by the fact three of the credits are for character creation at the hands of Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux, and Danny McBride. That still brings us to six. Len Wisemen is repeated again in the story credit with John Hlavin, so in reality we only have four total writers on the work. Still…Jess’s Rule of Three applies. For those not familiar it is the rule where if you have more than three writers on a project that the movie downgrades by exponential degrees with only a handful of exceptions.  Hlavin had no film credits prior, but did some story editing for The Shield. Wiseman created the series and has been involved the entire time, when not creating Sleepy Hollow the series. The last two credits go to Allison Burnett who didn’t have a great track record with films such as Fame and Untraceable on his resume. Then, however, there is a great writer J. Michael Stracyznski. I know him best from Babylon 5, but he also was a writer on Thor and Sense 8. Sadly this many writers with such differing backgrounds and levels of experience makes it hard where to place the blame for the overall script.

How do I feel about the script?


Ok directing? Neither Måns Mårlind or Björn Stein had any US film experience prior to this. This does not surprise me however, as much of the movie feels like other films I have seen come out of northern and eastern european filmmakers. There’s just something about the structure of shots, geography, and overall film production that reads European vs North American. The pacing shifts, the budget seems to get tighter in some areas while it gets abused in others still.  I think what saves them on this project is the fact that Wiseman is involved along with Kate Beckinsale reprising Selene.

Kate once again fills the all too familiar corset and body suit and shoots her way through the setting with brilliant blue eyes, black hair, and pale skin. I think her familiarity with Selene makes so much of the movie possible as she is the audience connection into what is otherwise unconnectable. Theo James (Divergent) is almost laughable trying to be tough against the known Selene, he reminds me of a puppy puffing its chest and barking at a wolf. He has zero chemistry with her and next to no charm. Thankfully the movie gives us Stephen Rea who is an amazing and totally underrated actor who brings a level of gravitas to his roles that works really well for the films he is in, such as V for Vendetta or Citizen X.  We are also given the gift of Michael Ealy (Almost Human, The Following), who has an easy charm like Chiwetel Ejiofor that allows him to glide in, sync up, and work with anyone.

From an FX perspective – how can a movie get that much worse over this much time? In 9 years graphics should have gotten better not worse. Then I look at the production design and make up department and see a distinct lack of Patrick Tatopoulos. I’d like to think part of the 70 million dollar budget went into the effects, a significant part. Perhaps it did, but…it doesn’t show.


This movie is a guilty pleasure. It isn’t good. Not by a longshot. It does some interesting things with the story and certainly advances the plot, but I just don’t care. Granted none of these films are great films, but this one is the weakest.

Should you watch it?

Well…only if you want to complete the series or prep for the next film. Otherwise Nope.


On a semi related note: do you like the youtube clips inserted in the review? Trying something new.



Darke Reviews | Dracula Untold (2014)

Amongst my nicknames is Vampire Princess. My license plate says VAMPRE, I have well over 100 books involving, about, or otherwise tied to vampires. So to say I am an aficionado of all things vampire is an understatement. I’ve been reading about them since I could read. I have a moral (amoral?) obligation to watch any vampire film that comes to the silver screen. This means I see it all, even Twilight and Vampire Academy. When I saw the trailer for Dracula Untold I had a feeling about this film, but knew I would be seeing it anyway.

First time film director Gary Shore must have impressed Hollywood with the career he made directing commercials before to get this job. He is working with a script by first time writers Burk Sharpless (seriously…that’s his name) and Matt Sazama. The trio of novices have crafted a different origin story for our famous voivode. Dracula actually has more remakes and interpretations than any other character ever and this time, they focus on the conflict between the people of Transylvania and the looming shadow of the Ottoman empire. I realize now as I write this, the overall plot is very similar to 300 with the vampire aspect thrown in. They do some interesting things with the principle characters and the entirety of Act III was rather enjoyable. The dialogue is often corny but the actors do their best to deliver it within the serious tone the movie tries to keep.

From an acting standpoint much rides on Luke Evans as Vlad. I actually like Evans. I’ve seen most of his filmography – Clash of the Titans, Three Musketeers, Immortals, The Raven, No One Lives, Fast & Furious 6, and of course most recently as Bard in the Hobbit films. He is an action star and though his range is fairly limited he does some pretty good things with that range. This time he does carry the film and has to go from loving father and husband, to monster, to protector, to monster again. He wears righteous rage so well in this movie and still shows that he is learning to chew scenery. Co-star Charles “Tywin Lannister” Dance, is a master of it. I couldn’t stop giggling or making Vampire The Masquerade/Game of Thrones comments under my breath watching him. Sarah Gadon as Vlad’s wife Mirena brings a smile to my face in nearly every scene. Just when I think she will fall victim to so many annoying tropes, I remain surprised. Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark in Captain America) must have been cast from his time playing Saddam Hussein in the Devil’s Double.  The casting call must have been “we need a white guy who can pass as middle eastern.” “Hey can we get this guy?”. I am not saying he is a bad actor by and stretch, but there’s some whitewashing going on here in the casting and that I cannot approve of on some moral grounds.

On a technical standpoint. Is the Bat scene from the trailers ridiculous? Oh by all the New Gods and Old and the Lord of Light YES. It doesn’t make it any less cool looking. The transformation to bat and the uncovering of his vampiric powers are well handled and honestly do look really cool.  They are used effectively, practically, and rather coolly through each fight sequence. The camera work is good. The CG is not god awful. The vampiric reaction to silver and sunlight is handled in a way I haven’t seen before and enjoy what I saw. Music by Ramin Djawadi didn’t help with the Game of Thrones links in my brain. The pacing is really well done and there’s little fat on this movie.


Let me be absolutely clear. This is not a good movie. Historical inaccuracies, geographic inaccuracies, costuming inaccuracies, the premise, and story all  combined present a rather silly reinvention of the Dracula films.

At the same time, it is also absolutely enjoyable. I was laughing. I was engaged. I was entertained. I probably wasn’t supposed to giggle through the first few minutes of the final act, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I was. I was getting more and more angry the longer the film went on during act I and finally realized that I need to stop taking this seriously. I had to stop expecting that there would be *any* similarity to real history beyond Ottomans and Vlad being in it. Once I embraced what the movie was doing I truly began to enjoy it. I like what it adds to the Dracula Mythos and vampires in general.

I even look forward to potential sequels from this. How strange is that?

So should you see it?

Well. If you want a silly fun actiony vampire movie? Yes. This is one of those beer and pretzels movies. It BEGS for it.

If you want a solid Dracula film, like we got with Oldman? Um No. just no. Save your money for halloween candy or something.