Darke Reviews | King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Preview screenings, yay! No one polling on exit? Odd. There are some movies I have seen in theatres I do not have reviews for. There are some, like High Rise, that are intellectually very good but I couldn’t solidify my emotions on it to write a review. Movies I have boycotted for Hollywood BS that don’t get a review but something else instead. Movies that are so mediocre that I cannot bring myself enough emotional weight to put words to screen and write a review (the final Divergent movie).

Then there is this one. A movie you probably didn’t even know was coming out and I was tempted to avoid writing a review lest it creep into your consciousness like some kind of mold or parasite from a bad sci fi movie and make you aware it exists. I would rather see it fall into the unseen reaches of movies that die with not a scream, but a whisper. Suffice to say then you get a review so you know to avoid this.

So what went wrong?

Let’s begin with the script. The rule of three is invoked. Story by David Dobkin, who has a story credit on one of my most reviled movies since I began writing R.I.P.D. and Joby Howard (Awake (2007)).  I really want to know how Dobkin can keep making movies, or more to the point ruining them. I am concerned now that I see Howard is a screenplay credit on The Flash, the DC movie.  But we’re not done yet as Howard gets a screenplay credit along side Lionel Wigram, who worked with Ritchie on Sherlock Holmes and Man from U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie himself also has a screenplay credit which tells me a story of some pretty decent on set rewrites after the script hit. Guy Ritchie has the final screenplay credit himself.

The story focuses on, Arthur Pendragon (Charlie Hunnam) and his rise from the ashes of betrayl by Vortigern. Young Arthur is raised in a brothel in Londinium from about age 6 until he is a man and is more or less a street tough and protector who is thrust into the plot against his will. Vortigern wants more power for nebulous reasons. Arthur must find his destiny, use the sword, save the kingdom.  The plot is thin and largely irrelevant because the editing has made it so. They, admirably mind you, try to do a lot of show don’t tell – but to succeed at it you need context. There’s exposition dumps amidst hastily edited and quickly read dialogue. There’s things that are never fully explained and matter even less in the end. I mean there is a REAL attempt to try not to explain everything but in the end nothing is explained and what is explained is done so over…

and over,

and over,

and over.

Then comes the directing. There’s a beautiful opening establishing shot that successfully establishes nothing in its 30 seconds of run time. It has no context, no bearing, and simply exists. Guy Ritchie continues to attempt to be clever by explaining a scene while its happening, cutting between the scene in the future and the explanation – but none of it really works as it comes across a muddied mess. There are attempts at wit that come and go and sometimes work, but rarely. I really can’t say what some of the actors were told to do in more than a few scenes which read quite similar to a block of wood. Don’t even get me started on the nausea inducing editing for the fight sequences involving real people. Between the camera jostling, changing angles, cuts, and overall movement it’s hard to make heads or tails of who is fighting what, where, or why. I mean the only reprieve here is that all of the bad guys wear black so they are different looking than the browns and off whites of the heroes. I mean that’s good right?

Now if you are still reading – you may have noticed I said fight sequences involving real people. I am reasonably…no I am certain until video evidence shows otherwise – that at least three fights were the equivellent of a modern video game cinematic. Which considering the quality of those should not be condemnation; but as it is in a live action movie it becomes one. I cannot prove it but  I would bet the writers played CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3. There’s one fight sequence that lasts too long that I think came right from the game…or might as well have. The rest of the graphics and visuals do their best to give you something you haven’t seen before, but I was so distracted by the overall badness of the production I couldn’t stop to appreciate what did work.

TL;DR?

I am tired of writing about this. It is a kinetic, frenetic, frenzied mess of a film with no sense of itself. It isn’t bad enough to be mocked by MST3K or good enough for me to actually hate it. It just is a disappointing film in which the actors I think try but are hampered by a script held together by bailing wire and day old bubblegum; and direction that leaves me wondering what happened to Guy Ritchie.

Should you see it?

No. Not even drunk…ok maybe drunk, but you would want to be near the fall down levels and make sure to get an ride home after.

Will you buy it? 

If only to burn in ritual sacrifice to the dark deities that such things are not done again.

Jess – seriously, is it that bad?

At the moment this is the worst movie of the year I have seen. Lost City of Z, also with Hunnam the poor sod, was made with great care and good production values. This was made with good production values and potentially shrooms or chemical alteration of the people in the production. I wanted it to be good folks. I wanted to like it but its actually bad. Not even mediocre. I am ultimately disappointed with the thing to a degree I didn’t think it would manage.

Anything else?

It’s a total sausage fest? I mean there’s women in it but only one of them gets a name. Uther simply calls his wife “woman” at one point…

Ok so what should I see this weekend? What else do you have coming?

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Please, let it make more money.

As far as Alien: Covenant, I am trying to avoid spoilers but headlines on places I follow….yeah my hopes are pretty dashed –  which means it can only go up in my estimation!

 

Sorry folks this movie is just really bad and made by and with really good people.

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Darke Reviews | Crimson Peak (2015)

So first off, apologies about missing the last few days of reviews, been a touch sick. That being said, we do have a new film that fits right in with the theme of this month with it’s supernatural tones and haunting themes. As we start into the review a confession that I am a Guillermo del Toro fangirl, I’ve loved his entire filmography and still have a few films to watch. This is my most anticipated movie of the fall season from the trailer to now I have been getting hyped. Cast, Director,  all of it. I mean watch this trailer, with PJ Harvey’s cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right hand.

This is a trailer that drove me to watch a film. This did the job of a trailer, I was interested. I was hyped.

Was I too hyped? Was it worth it?

Let’s begin with writing. Matthew Robbins, best known as the writer of 1974’s Sugarland Express. He is also the mind behind urban horror tale Mimic, 80’s rebellion icon The Legend of Billie Jean (a personal fav). The man knows how to write character driven stories. He also does a good job with tension, but only a good job; that’s where co-writer del Toro comes in. Nothing will stick out to me more about del Toro than his work on Pan’s Labyrinth a film that any director should be proud of and how people brought young children to it. It was a tumultuous film I look forward to writing a review of soon, but regardless it has such beautiful tension and imagery. Now we combine forces of these two men, who had previously worked on Mimic together. Only good things can come from this right?

We also have del Toro at the helm directing and providing, and I use the term honestly, visionary ideas to the production. I think of what he did with Mimic, Blade II, and Hellboy when given a chance. It’s important to know here that del Toro isn’t just a talented writer, but he has also worked multiple film crews as well, working Art Department, Editorial, Casting, Stunts, and so one. There are few facets of film he does not understand which only makes him a stronger director and that is in play here. I have complained a few times recently how claustrophobic modern film is, where the quality of the camera and the way the sets are shot make films seem small. Here del Toro flips that on it’s head making the film feel both claustrophobic and large at the same time in a an extraordinarily talented way. He made interesting fade choices I haven’t seen since the early days of film that only add to the style and ambience of the finished work.

An excellent director can do miracles when given the right cast and that has been put together. Jessica Chastain I have realized is a magnificent actress, much like a female Gary Oldman. Her roles are so different and so powerful, but she vanishes into them and you forget quickly you are looking at Murph, Commander Lewis, Maggie Beauford, or Maya; here instead she is Lady Lucille Sharpe, a Victorian/Turn of the century lady. Her brother, Thomas, is delivered unto us by Tom Hiddleston, most famous for his Loki performances, but also from a vampire favorite Only Lovers Left Alive. I am ecstatic that he did this as it will hopefully force fangirls, and other fans alike, to no longer think of him just as the man who played Loki. Thor made him famous, but his talent will keep him so I hope. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Only Lovers Left Alive) joins her two former castmates as Edith Cushing-Sharpe, a young american girl with dreams of being a writer in the vein of Mary Shelley vs. Jane Austen. Rounding out the cast we have Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim / Sons of Anarchy),  Jim Beaver (Supernatural), and the man with incredible fingers, Doug Jones. Few people have seen Jones without a make up effect on him, but suffice to say he is an excellent creature performer.

That also tells you something of the film. There are people, mostly Doug Jones and Javier Botet that play the supernatural elements of the film. For those in the back, Real people. Yes, they are overlaid with computer work, but that is only after the prosthetics and make up is applied. The movie goes as practical as it is capable of for the story it wants to tell and thrives for it as physical performances enhanced by a computer are always better than a performance simply made by the computer in a film like this. The effects are creepy but not too creepy. The trailers will let you manage your expectations of what you can and cannot deal with. Continuing on the technicals, the sets themselves are perfect. I mean that. Perfect. The house is real as far as I am concerned. It is a place I want to go, it is a place I can go. The costuming is stunning as well and tells a story of it’s own.

Now, the story itself? It is a classic ghost story in every sense of the word. This is not a spoiler since if you are surprised it’s a ghost story, clearly you are not paying attention. It is atmospheric. It is pulpy. It is large. It is small. It is dark and it is bright. Not one aspect of the story is wasted or left to chance.

TL;DR?

At almost precisely 2 hours, I cannot say Crimson Peak is a perfect film. I closed the longer part of the review saying not an aspect was wasted or left too chance; yet there is some pacing that could have been addressed. Guillermo does a sublime job of building tension and releasing it as needed, but it’s not quite perfect. I cannot put my finger on it but there’s just something off that didn’t resonate as well. It could be the bad audience I had, the long work day before, or my own expectations being as high as they were.

All of that aside, if you are looking forward to Crimson Peak – see it. See it this weekend. It’s the only one studios care about. We need more of what this film, it’s cast and crew bring to the cinema. This movie is the art we thought it would be.

The trailer says beware Crimson Peak.

I say enter of thy own free will….

 

Darke Reviews | Pacific Rim (2013)

Hold on to your butts and fasten your seat belts. Pacific Rim has arrived. All summer I have been saying this movie or that movie will be the one to beat until PR shows up. I was absolutely right. At the edge of our hope for a truly great summer blockbuster we Are given this gift. This weekend we are cancelling the slate of mediocre and rehashed summer films. While there have been fun movies and good movies this is a great movie that puts them all to shame.

Guillermo Del Toro (Geek god, Hellboy, Blade II) directs a story written by Travis Beacham who only has the lack luster clash of the Titans to his credits. Please note this movie meets the rules – One Writer, One Screenplay by. Together the two have given us a story of men, monsters and giant flipping robots. They do it well and they did it epic. They spared no expense and it shows.

So what actually makes it epic? Well you have Idris Elba playing a soldier and a leader who will be the last man standing so his people don’t lose hope. He is the stereotype and plays it as if he isn’t. Scenery is his diet and he chews with raw abandon. When he yells you want to apologize to him, when he gives a speech you want to cheer. You also have Charlie Hunnam, from SOns of Anarchy, playing the reluctant hero who isn’t all that reluctant which is a beautiful breath of fresh air. It could be Rinko Kikuchi, new comer to americans, and her twist on the female lead stereotypes. She does play into a few of them but what makes it epic is the fact they don’t linger on those moments too long. There’s also Ron Perlman playing a Ron Perlman character in a GDT movie. Just know he is awesome and move on. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Charlie Day does an amazing JJ Abrams impression but also adds much needed humor and moments to breath in what is otherwise an amazing rollercoaster ride of a film.

All of the above are part of what makes it epic. So what else does? Geek Love. Geek Respect. Del Toro gives his nod to the sci fi that has come before. Star Wars reference? Check. Independence Day references? All over the damn place. Godzilla (old and newer) references, yep. The casting of the voice of GLaDOS as the computer voice, awesome. The one that floored me?  DR. WHO! There is a character who spends the entire second and third act dressed like Eleven! Del Toro loves movies. He loves fantasy and Sci fi and horror and dammit if he doesn’t put all the love for the genre into his work here and it shows. All of his passion and vision and drive to make movies is right here in two hours of film. He even gives credit to other directors in the special thanks! These people weren’t even attached to the film but that doesn’t matter he gives them a nod.

Ok so what about the Giant Robots and Giant Monsters? Also, epic. Now, here is where I have to give a warning, one of the few this movie deserves. Do not expect solid science. The story said we built giant robots and thus we have giant robots. They each have their unique design from each country they are from. They all have their own tricks but if you expect them to obey all the laws of physics, conservation of energy, force and mass equations – just stop. Stop now and turn that part of your brain off and eat some more popcorn. This movie isn’t about the science and because of that I can forgive the lack there of.

So here it is, at the end of the day – aka TL;DR

Pacific Rim is absolutely the must see film of the summer if you want your blockbuster and popcorn. It’s not for everyone and if you aren’t an fan you may not find it as epic, but then again you may.

Please if you are or were only somewhat interested, go see this film. Support it. Support the Genre and hopefully we can get more movies like this and less like so much else of what we have gotten this year.

Summer apocalypse cancelled. We have a winner folks and nothing else this summer has been or will be as awesome in the genre.