Darke Reviews | Passengers (2016)

I like good sci-fi. I think my review of Arrival and The Martian show that. Hell I even like some bad Sci Fi (5th Wave) and Mediocre Sci Fi (Morgan , Transcendence) so long as I am entertained.  Though as 10 Cloverfield Lane found out – if you keep beating me over the head with a specific trope I will be unforgiving. I want to expect more. You as a viewing audience should expect more.

What’s the point I am getting to?

First a warning. I have to violate the No Spoiler Rule here. You can click here to skip to the TL;DR

Spoiler-Warning
spoilers

Still reading?

Ok.

I wish this movie had a face so I could punch it.

The entire contrivance of the movie after the system error that wakes *him* up is that he is the one that wakes her up. Why? Because she’s beautiful. Because he has cyber-stalked her sleeping beauty. Because he thinks she’s perfect and he loves the idea of her. So he wakes her up knowing this will be a death sentence for her as much as the one he is already subjected to. There’s no consent. No permission. No anything, but his man guilt. Him wrestling with the decision for 5 minutes of screen time is enough apparently.

Of course she finds out about the 2/3 mark of the movie, long after they’ve become a thing through their isolation and his charm. He doesn’t even tell her himself, but she finds out by accident. Oh sure he kept saying he was going to tell her, but he never did.

They do allow her to be rightfully angry. Justifiably so, as he has all but murdered her by waking her up nearly 90 years prior to the time she should have been. She goes to lengths to avoid him, but he uses the ship wide communicator to try to make an apology for it so she can’t even actually escape him. Then at least two other sources in the film tell her “…you just have to deal with it and him”; which she finally does and forgives him in a scene that had me clenching my jaw where she after being angry at him was willing to let everyone on the ship die so he could live.

I really hate this movie. I really hate that the producers allowed it.

ITS CREEPY. I don’t care anything else that happens, the premise from the time he woke her up is WRONG.

This is rape culture the movie. “It’s ok because he was alone. We have to think of HIS life. His sanity. Her life and her agency doesn’t matter next to his.”

The movie was written by Jon Spaihts, who also has an executive producer credit which explains why the producers allowed it. He has writing credits on the abysmal bomb The Darkest Hour, Prometheus, and Doctor Strange. He is the writer on the upcoming Mummy movie with Tom Cruise. Oscar nominated director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) was at the helm on this.  Gee, two guys write a space Sleeping Beauty movie where the Prince is a handsome ‘every man’ that of course she’d fall in love with despite you know stalking her and committing one of the universes slowest murders. They use consistent and constant plot contrivances and writing to make it so she does forgive him and they die happily ever after.

When your biggest plot point is similar to parts of Fatal Attraction, Captivity but you are going for actual romance – you failed. I suppose if you want to see Stockholm syndrome the movie this would suffice.

Ok, beyond my rage at that. There are other components to the movie that are a colossal mediocre. I mean if you want to see what life is like trapped in an ever refilling shopping mall you’ve got something to watch here. If you want to watch your typical just in the nick of time save the ship from disaster with no actual tension or risk because you know they won’t kill your lead actor as they spent the previous 80% of the movie man-splaining him for you. Also – the heroic save – doesn’t redeem the bad act. Sorry it doesn’t.

What really kills me is the opening was good. His waking up and handling it was good. How he tried to deal with things was good. Then the bridge between Act I and Act II comes along and poof. Rage. I mean would you REALLY root for Tom Hanks in Castaway if he had intentionally pulled someone from a peaceful happy life and potential just so he wouldn’t be alone? If you said yes – I am a little worried.

*sigh* I really could keep going. I really *SHOULD* keep going, but if you don’t have the idea by now I am not sure what else I could say.

Actors? Pratt and Lawrence are fine. This should surprise no one. She has three Oscar nominations and a win. She can act circles around people. Chris Pratt is charming as ever and we know he can bring intensity when he wants to thanks to Magnificent Seven, Jurassic World,  and Guardians of the Galaxy. They are FINE. She handles the bits of rage and avoidance as well as anyone can, probably better.

Effects? Solid. Nothing to write home about. Nothing particularly new. Definitely very clean and top of the line don’t get me wrong but there was nothing we haven’t seen before.

 

Spoiler-Warning

spoilers

Technically the spoilers are above this, but I am hiding them above the fold with the image…

TL;DR

Do not see this movie. I spent money on it so I could confirm the stories I had heard. They aren’t too far off the mark.

I spent money so I can ask you not to.

If you want to watch a better movie about people waking up from hibernation? Pandorum. It’s good sci-fi horror. That’s what this should have been. If you want a decent stalking movie – there’s always Fatal Attraction. I heard The Resident was pretty good too.

Seriously readers – don’t give this money. Don’t let Hollywood think this is alright. Let it bomb for the controversy it rightfully deserves.

I understand some folks will see this because they just love Pratt. I get it. He’s cute. He’s charming. Just spend the $20 (Ticket+Concessions) to buy Jurassic World or Magnificent Seven. If you like Jennifer Lawrence and want to see her vamping it up, there’s American Hustle.

Just don’t see this.

Please.

Thank you.

~The Management of Amused in the Dark

Darke Reviews | The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa is a masterpiece. There are people who may try to argue this, but they are simply wrong. Kurosawa painted a tale of modern mythology that all others would try to follow. Then they did six years later in 1960 with an American version of it, a western of course as was the course for the day, with an established director John Sturges at the helm. He put together a cast of what we think of now as legends of the industry Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach. The story is the same, the beats are the same, the setting is different. While it is a silver age representation of how we take great films from other countries and remake them (I am looking at you Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Let the Right One In), in and of itself it is just as iconic. Needless to say when the first trailer released only a few months ago for this version some 50+ years later many were dubious of someone messing with a classic.

So do we need to have a showdown at high noon?

The movie appropriately gives credit to the original with screenplay credits for Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni; but then gives us screenplay credits for Richard Wenk and  Nic Pizzolatto. Wenk has shown up in my reviews before for his work on Vamp and The Equalizer. We will also see him behind the ben on the Jack Reacher sequel. Pizzolatto comes from the world of TV where he worked on the critically acclaimed True Detective and a few episodes of The Killing. They make the required changes for what we know now and do little more to enhance the story or alter it in any significant way. Some of the alterations seem to be detractors from otherwise solid but simply ok material. Once again the story changes little, with a town in peril paying for seven drifters with pasts …and presents as warriors to defend them. This is not just the last stand for the town, but the last chance for …peace, redemption, revenge, or mayhaps even to be legendary themselves.

Director Antoine Fuqua was the right man for this role. I saw his name on the original trailer and was pleased, despite the musical choices. There is absolutely not a single film of Fuqua’s I don’t like (that I’ve seen). King Arthur (2004), Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer, and most would call out Training Day. The man can shoot a film. He has an excellent sense for blocking, pacing, and how to get the most from his actors. His action scenes are visceral in their brutality yet tame enough and safe enough for easy consumption. The same holds true here. The tension as one of the gunfights prepares to break out is palpable. When the cord snaps, we are treated to a fast moving but accessible, more importantly, watchable series of events that tell you everything you need to know about who you are dealing with.

The actors are great. Denzel doesn’t Denzel too much and does well as Chisolm. Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday our Gambler shows he can do a special intensity that was appropriate but sadly lacks some, but not all, of his usual charm. Ethan Hawke’s Goodnight Robicheaux is amazing and it is a bit weird to think of Ethan Hawke being one of the older men in the group. His companion Billy Rocks played fantastically by the criminally under used (in other projects) Byung-hun Lee (Red 2, both GI Joe Movie) has such wonderful chemistry with Hawke, I buy these two as good friends. Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World, Daredevil) completely vanishes into Jack Horne, the old tracker brought along. Haley Bennett plays our woman seeking revenge on the man (Peter Sarsgaard’s Bartholomew Bogue) who killed her husband and delivers as well as everyone else. It’s nice when a competent director gets all good actors! Manuel Garcia Rulfo (born in Mexico) and Martin Sensmeier (Heritage: Tlingit and Koyukon-Athabascan) round out our unlikely group. Now you might be asking why I don’t list their credits, but their heritage. It’s a fair question, but in my small war against white washing, it’s important to call out when the right people are cast for the right roles, as in this case both men are cast to play a Mexican and a Native American. It is that rare that it deserves mention – Representation is important!!!  Cast diversity is some of the widest non token characters I have seen in some time.

Sadly, the movie does have flaws that need to be called out. Bennett’s a single stumble or trip away from a wardrobe malfunction for reasons we cannot fathom and sporting a shade of red hair that doesn’t come naturally from roots. It’s a lovely shade but jarringly noticeable as they keep calling attention to it with the light. The normally on point James Horner, working with Simon Franglen, fails the movie musically. This isn’t to say the music is bad. It’s just generic western. There are several beats of the movie where you would want or expect the music to take a different tone or just be different, but it’s a little too loud, little too wrong, and just not right. Again, it isn’t bad! It just is wrong for the movie and doesn’t resonate as well as it should. The music should bring you in more and tell a story its own and tell you what to feel. Sometimes it does, but too many noticable times it breaks the mood in a wrong direction.

I wish I could say that the costuming on Haley and Horner’s music were the only flaws.

I want to know what…no I demand to know what is going on in Hollywood. The movie editing on some of these pictures this year is horrendous. Some of it is the studio (Batman V Superman) others are totally inexplicable. Ghostbusters and Suicide Squad come to mind. There’s a better film on the editing room floor. Too many scenes cut short. Too many scenes that needed 3o seconds more of dialogue or a minute longer of the right people connecting and talking. The actors did well, but the editor didn’t do them any favours. It made it hard at times to connect to them the way you are intended, and while many moments are earned by inference they are not earned on the lens and in the frame. Conversations between old soldiers, old friends, and even old enemies could have happened and were missed or otherwise cut. This is why I say the actors did well, but I think they could have been even better (as good as they were!). That is disappointing.

TL;DR

The Magnificent Seven is a solid good. It will never be the classic that either of the films it drew from are. It didn’t earn that, but it could have. There’s a better movie somewhere in here. Somewhere on an editing room floor and I want to see that movie. It might be three hours, but it would be a worthy three hours. There’s intensity here that works in a lot of scenes, but other parts just are off enough that what should be important isn’t. Others are something that could be studied by other lesser directors.

I have a sense some studio interference happened here. I can’t say why, but I am 99% sure it did. The film could have been so much better and I regret we may never see that movie.

Should I see it?

The movie is good. It’s watchable. I enjoyed it. There are a lot of people who will and should see it this weekend. I can easily recommend it to them without doubting it.

Do not dare compare it to the original (either of them). It will disappoint.

Will you watch it again?

Matinee maybe? Not full price.

How about BluRay?

Absolutely.

What’s next?

I am on vacation and it will span over the next two thursdays. Which means I may not get to Miss Peregrine for a bit and that makes me sad I am looking forward to it, but it feels weird to go on vacation and sit in a theatre when I could be out “doing”

That also means I may not do a review a day this October as the first 8 days I won’t be home and at times won’t have internet. Yes, I am going to a place without net. I am not sure if you should cheer or weep.

We will see what happens. Don’t begrudge me the vacation…please?

Darke Reviews – Jurassic World (2015)

Being a pessimist is a blessing and a curse, usually a curse. The blessing is that I expect so little of people and the world that when they deliver above my lowest expectations I can be pleasantly surprised. Since the first hyper saturated trailer came out for this film I have been pretty much quick to condemn it. Too much CGI. Too much hyper color correction. Chris Pratt with a pack of velociraptors around him. It really looked bad. Point in fact one of the people who had intended to see the movie, with me today, and myself were going to full on MST3K this film after it was over.  I expected bottom of the barrell Hollywood paycheck garbage.

So where did it land?

As always SPOILER FREE.

Let’s look at an early condemnation for the film by my own rules. The writer count. You get to excuse Michael Crichton (being dead is a good excuse) as he is simply credited for the characters. That leaves us with 4 unique credits on the writing. You have Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver on story, then again on screenplay. Two additional names show up on screenplay as well, Colin Trevorrow (who also directed) and Derek Connolly. Jaffa is probably best known for his work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and an older horror movie called The Relic (it’s not too bad). Silver has worked on the same projects beat for beat as writers and both functioned as producers on the last two Apes movies. Helps when they are married I suppose, but I can see that they do work well together and put out some of the best films we have had in the sci fi genre in the past few years. Their story work is evident here as the movie does focus on the little interactions amidst life threatening chaos. Derek Connolly seems to have been brought in as an addition to put touches on the script as well, probably due to the fact that he and writer/director Trevorrow worked on SNL and Safety Not Guaranteed together. So in reality the movie defies the 3+ writer rule and brings it down to 2. You have two pairs of people who pretty much work exclusively with each other, they feed off of each other and build on each other in a collaborative way that can be both bad and good, but the end result is a well oiled machine that knows how to function and isn’t trying to ‘fix’ someone else.

From a story standpoint itself, the movie has a few points I think it wanted to elaborate more on but either they were cut or not fleshed out. These personal stories weren’t really all that gripping or necessary to the point I think I might have preferred them removed and something else more relevant for the individual characters instead. There is one trope I could have done without that isn’t offensive, but mostly tired. A few points are cringe worthy and without the slightest hint of subtlety. Does it really have a negative impact on the movie? No. Not really

Part of that credit must go to the director. Colin Trevorrow is a man who has never had a budget of his own before now. I think much like Gareth Edwards on Godzilla after Monsters, was a bit overwhelmed, but stuck to many of his roots (where the studio allowed)  and told a good story with rather good performances from his actors, no matter their age. If anything he fails at it is some of his decisions on camera work with the director of photography. A few scenes move too quick and cut too fast to let you try to make sure you are seeing what you are meant to see. I am not sure if that comes from trying to hide the CG work or just bad design.  I also must blame him for some of the editing flaws in the movie and decisions to keep certain beats in where they weren’t needed. Otherwise, he did pretty well in letting you savor the action, the tension, and helping to overcome the significant flaws of the abomination that is Jurassic Park 3. The writing quartet and director remembered to make the characters likeable so you care if and when they die.

The credit must also go to the actors here. Look let me put it in blunt terms. Chris Pratt rules this film like a T-Rex in his own right. You have no choice but to watch him as he is consistently the most interesting thing on screen. He is larger than life and is supposed to be. He nails it perfectly and I am happy. There’s a rumor that Disney may be targeting him for a certain fedora and bullwhip and to that I say – yes please (after this film). Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, The Help) is also surprisingly good in this. I enjoy her character far more than I anticipated and she (and the director) put some subtlety and nuance to her performance through the film that I was happy to see. While she isn’t as big as Pratt in this one, she does hold her own screen presence pretty well.

Let’s talk children for a moment. One of the driving forces of this story, as they were in the original. The kids. They act. They act well. Screw you Shyamalan (note: this is an eternal screw you for his abomnination of The Last Airbender and horrible acting from the children).  Ty Simpkins (Insidious, Iron Man 3) does well as the younger brother and doesn’t make you want to grind your teeth. He is matched by Nick Robinson as the older brother who had such potential to be something not good. Thankfully again the writers, director, and Robinson hold their hand well and let the character be something a bit more than stereotype. Thank you guys.

Ok, so I ripped the movie for technicals just from the trailers. Should I? Yes. The CG work is flawed. The effects team used daylight and hyper saturation of the color pallette to try to hide the lines, but it (as always) doesn’t work. Not every piece of CG work is bad mind you, but the parts that are – really are. What the trailers didn’t tell me and  I was happy to see was PRACTICAL. While not to the scale, effect, or execution of the original Jurassic Park, the practical effects are good. They are also sorely needed amidst everything else. Also – guys….(not that anyone on the team will see this) I can tell when you reuse assets. It’s not the worst sin in the world, but it’s still a sin. Speaking of sins. CinemaSins will probably have some fun with this one as my first thought seeing the kids room was ‘there’s an orgy of evidence that this room belongs to a young boy’. The product placement in this also is near sin worthy if it weren’t so intentional. It is a little ridiculous at times, but I consider it a small price.

TL:DR?

It’s a good movie folks. If you are like me and have some seriously intense nostalgia for the original film, try to keep that in check. For better or worse the industry has changed and our awe at seeing a dinosaur on the big screen will never be the same as it was in Jurassic Park. I paid attention to the people around me. The kids. The adults. The elderly couple next to me. They enjoyed it. They weren’t comparing it to the original film (which does hold up 20 years later) they were just watching this.

They were watching dinosaurs walk, fly, and swim. They laughed, they jumped, they gasped, but they had a good time. That right there is all that matters.  All critiques and criticisms, and trust me I can tear into this movie with a few things, don’t really matter. People had a good time. The film makers wanted that and they succeeded. It isn’t as great as the original, but is the original as great because we had *nothing* to compare it to and it in turn became the benchmark we compare other things to? Are some of the moments completely ridiculous? Yes. I didn’t care and neither did the audience. Movies have changed for better or worse.

This is a summer blockbuster that is going to happen.

It should happen.

So for whatever it may be worth I think you should go see Jurassic World and you will probably enjoy yourself. 

I know I did.

Trailers in the Darke – Jurassic World

Welcome…to Jurassic World.

 

UPDATE: NEW TRAILER

 

Darke Reviews | Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Oh I had expectations going into this one. I put this pretty much at the bottom of the list of Marvel Cinematic Universe I would enjoy. Why you ask? Well to be honest I have no love for awkward, uncomfortable, or slapstick comedy. I also have no love for some of the songs on Star Lords awesome mix #1 (You can see the Nerdist for the full list www.nerdist.com/2014/07/james-…. Spirit in the Sky and Hooked on a Feeling may be two of my most hated songs ever. Never liked them, never will. No real rational reason, they just don’t appeal to me and tend to get overplayed to my perception. This is what the trailers sold me. This is what I was expecting. I was really really not looking forward to this movie.

Some of my coworkers derided me for going into a movie with expectations such as these. That I should go in with a clear mind and thought on what the movie could potentially be. This is nigh impossible. I have avoided behind the scenes sites as much as possible these days to avoid the spoilers that I can, but trailers have a job to sell a movie. What they show sets expectations. Some movies defy them – Hercules last week. Some movies lie to you with them – such as the remake of Clash of the Titans. Some movies are failed by them – Lord of War. So where did Guardians of the Galaxy fall, with a trailer that in my opinion failed it.

-please note, this review is as always spoiler free, and my opinion on the trailer seems largely unique-

Obviously this one is based on a comic, one of which I have only passing familiarity. That is to say I know it exists. Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) is also one of the ones responsible for the script. Nicole Perlman has no listed writing credits before this, but has an announced Black Widow treatment in the works? Interesting. Writer Director as I’ve said before can be very good or very bad. It is rarely in the middle. Until today. The story here is a mandated origin story. They didn’t get a choice. You need to introduce a three meter walking tree, a talking racoon, a green assassin, and a blue guy with red tattoos; oh and the human male lead. There’s also a plot to introduce, villains, worlds, a galaxy of races. Now – do it in 2 hours. Good luck.

So while the plot is a bit of a hot mess, I can look past it because they were asked the near impossible in the 21st century. Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate – all of these have built in fanbases and worlds we know that need little introduction for the average theatre goer. Even the newbie can be brought up to speed quickly with these franchises, this one is a tad more difficult. They do it as well as they possibly can and fairly well. Everyone gets a character moment on both sides of the coin. Just enough for you to get who they are and why they are. What their world view is. Some are treated better than others, and well quite honestly some aren’t treated as good as they should be or could be. I will get into that as I talk about the characters.

Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Zero Dark Thirty) plays our noble space pirate. He’s Malcolm Reynolds but doesn’t quite have the easy going charm that Fillion does. This is probably intentional and if so it works, he is also the least interesting character in the movie. He is regularly upstaged by more colourful (literally) costars. The reigning champion of the film is Rocket. Yes. That’s right the Raccoon is the hands down winner of I want to watch him. Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, A-Team) voices the four legged menace to society and proves he has that kind of natural charisma that works if you see him on camera or not. Vin Diesel voices Groot, the aforementioned tree who is always fun to watch when he emotes or gives you an “I am Groot”. Dave Bautista of WWE fame, plays Drax the Destroyer. He doesn’t act a lot, but with the character he has thats a good thing. What he does is kick butt and be large and in charge. He is also one of the more humorous characters and as enjoyable in his dryness as Diesel is in his …quirkiness?

Sadly, Zoe Saldana does nothing particularly new here. Her Gamora is nearly the same character as Columbiana and Aisha (The Losers). Tough, beautiful, action girl. This isn’t horrific by any means. We need more like her. I just wish they had done more to break her from a stereotype. Script problems – not actress here. Additional script problems come in the form of the nemesis Nebula. Karen Gillan (Dr. Who and Occulus) gets our lovely blue alien. The entirety of act 1 – she is menacing and you believe her deadly. Something happens half way through act two where she loses this and seems to be a shadow of her former threat. This is compounded in what should be an epic fight between her and Gamora that just is…weaker than it should be. Script problems I cannot forgive there. Gillan, however, proved we need to see more of her in the cinema in the action, horror, and sci fi genre’s. She pulled off what could have been a difficult role and did it well. The story and script failed her. The director failed her. Lee Pace (Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Halt and Catch Fire) is just never quite the threat he needs to be. I don’t know who to blame there, but it is. He exists. the threat exists, I just don’t get his menace if it is supposed to exist.

Visually, the movie is beautiful. The darkening of 3D hurts the film as it seems to have a focus on bright vibrant colours. They just get lost in the 3D. Everything else looks very clean and easy to watch. Rocket, Groot, the ships, the space stations, etc look great. Rocket especially. We aren’t quite talking Uncanny Valley here, but it’s superb.

Music. *sigh*. Yep still hate most of it, but it was no where near as prominent as I feared. They even used a song I like with the Runaways “Cherry Bomb”. A few times it works. Other times its backdrop. The Star Lord introduction works well enough to let you know who and what you are dealing with. This one falls to different strokes for different folks. I will never like the soundtrack, but if you do – enjoy! The score left a bit to be desired as it reminded me too much of Avengers.

TL;DR?

Alright here we go. Yep, the trailers failed this one for me.

It’s good. The movie is solid. It feels a bit pacing hurt at times, but its more entertaining than I thought it would be. It made me laugh at times. I enjoyed the action. I enjoyed the finale. The humor wasn’t AS bad as I thought it would be.

That said, there’s some language in this one. If you want to keep your kids from male anatomy or fecal matter (see I keep my reviews clean), then I wouldn’t take them to see it. If it doesn’t matter – then cool. Enjoy.

So there you go. Guardians of the Galaxy is a good, entertaining movie. Not the strongest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but most definitely not the weakest.

Next week may be a double review with TMNT and Into the Storm. TMNT is absolute…the other. Eh see a post tomorrow on that