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 | A Quiet Place (2018)

I have to admit from the initial trailers I’ve been excited for this movie. John Krasinski directing isn’t what did it, I have never watched, nor am likely to watch an episode of The Office. I don’t think I’ve watched a single thing he’s starred in. Emily Blunt is always a gift in film and to be fair is a draw here. No, what got me was the premise. A horror movie with a creature that attacks based on certain types of noise and sound. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Sure the Descent has creatures that *should* hunt that way, and The Cave has creatures that use echo location, but none of them explored fully a creature above ground that stalks and kills its prey if it makes noise. I specify above ground because yes, the Tremors films “Graboids” do hunt by sound. The set up here is different with a clear intent to invoke raw tension in the viewer.

I have a mouth and should I scream?

Yeah ok not my best lead in question pun, I just wanted to get to writing on this. Feel free to suggest better ones in the comments on Facebook. The movie was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. The two have been collaborating together for well over a decade on various shorts and a single TV movie with this being their first theatrical feature film together.  Krasinski nabs a screenplay credit for any changes he made on set while directing. As I am not familiar with any of the pairs prior works, I can’t comment like usual on trends or patterns in story. What I can say is they provided us something that horror does better than almost any other genre; a tight focused character piece. The trailers tell you all you need. We have fast moving creatures that hunt day or night at the slightest of loud noises. They apparently are very strong and due to the near post apocalyptic feel the movie sets up very difficult to kill.

Can you imagine living in a world where you can’t speak to anyone around you? It’s entirely possible for me to go from the end of a work day on a Friday to the Monday morning without uttering a word or hearing another human voice. It happens quite a bit. I know how that leaves me on that morning and I cannot fully appreciate or realize what going days, weeks, months, or even years would be like. What does it mean to survive like that? With a family? With children? Is it even really living? The movie probes into these topics just enough with the charming backdrop of an upstate New York farm and monsters waiting for the kill.

I often pick on films for introducing concepts and not exploring them fully, if at all. This one introduces several fascinating concepts in horror and humanity and delves just deep enough under the skin to leave you thinking about it as the tension rises. Tension being something Krasinski as a director did extraordinarily well. Much as I tear into films that don’t have good rises and falls of tension, this one is like watching someone inflate a balloon. You see it getting bigger and bigger and you can’t be sure if it’s going to pop. Every now and then, a little air is let out letting you breathe for a moment, but then they get right back to it. It works.

With a small cast of four people everyone has to be on their A game to sell the drama underlying the horror. Blunt and Krasinski do their parts well, but with Emily this is to be expected and it’s clear John has talent to keep up the game while also being behind the camera. Noah Jupe, does well enough as the pre/early teenage son Marcus, who is trying to understand his place in the family and the world. Millicent Simmonds, who plays the eldest daughter Regan who is deaf, does a great job getting both the angry and slightly rebellious teenager while still respecting the rules of the movie.

There is also one other critical factor to this childs role in the movie – she too is deaf. More and more movies are being called to the carpet – rightfully so – for casting abled individuals in character roles that are disabled. It’s takes away an opportunity for someone who is capable of performing a role and giving it to an able bodied person. It’s worth noting that this also comes up for those who are Queer when straight people are cast in roles that are explicitly queer. While it shouldn’t *have* to be praised for this, the casting and production of the movie *does* deserve praise for casting Millicent as a character who is deaf. I keep saying representation matters and this is yet again an opportunity that was taken to prove it. Well done movie. Well done.

From a technical perspective the production does a lot very right. It feels odd to praise a movie based on silence for its sound design but I must. There is an ingenuity at play here with the right sounds at the right times, at the right volumes. It amplified everything in the theatre. A creak of a chair. Someone shifting in the seats three rows back. This made it so when the sounds got loud you really appreciated all there was to it. The editing was fantastic with solid camera work to support it. Then of course comes the creature design. I liked it. That’s all I am saying.

TL;DR?

I really enjoyed this movie. It was good tension ratcheting horror with the right pay offs at the right times. It delivered on all it promised me and I can earnestly recommend this film to people. If Krasinski decides to keep himself behind the camera in future projects we have a good director joining the fray.  I hope we get more of Millie in future films as well. She’s already declared that she wants to continue acting and advocating for the deaf community and we should support her. I really hope Hollywood does.

So I should see it then?

Yes. If you were interested, slightly interested, at all curious – yes. D-Box seating isn’t needed. It didn’t add much that I noticed to the experience.

Would you see it again?

Probably. If someone local wants to go.

Buying it then?

No question

You don’t praise horror movies this much – whats the deal?

Because most horror doesn’t try. It relies on too many old tropes or characters you really can’t wait to see die. This does none of those things and explores an idea we haven’t seen. Don’t tell me there is nothing original left and then ignore this movie.

Last thoughts?

#RepresentationMatters

Darke Reviews | Annihilation (2018)

We’ve discussed in other reviews, more than a few, my love for Sci Fi. So when I saw the visually arresting trailer for this film I knew I had to see it. It wasn’t a well maybe, it was a must. First you have Natalie Portman who is always engaging and lights up the screen regardless of role since I first saw her in Leon The Professional. I’ve previously said Oscar Isaac needs to be cast in everything. My statement stands. Then you see directed by Alex Garland, whose screenplay I adored for the 2012 Dredd, 28 Days Later deserves its praise, and of course one of my favourite films this decade Ex Machina. The real question is –

How could this movie possibly go wrong?

The film is based on the 2014 novel by Jeff VanderMeer with screenplay by Alex Garland, who as mentioned before directs. The story surrounds a team of women scientists who explore an extraterrestrial field that no one else has returned from. Inside they confront bizarre and magnificent mutations of both flora and fauna – all in the search of a two very simple questions. What is happening, and why? The answers of course are hardly simple or we wouldn’t have any drama.

Garland is one of the true auteurs in modern film making, and while he doesn’t have Guillermo Del Toro’s distinctive stylings, or Wes Anderson’s quirk, he definitively has a style. He understands, with Cinematographer Rob Hardy, how to move the camera for the right effect. How to get compelling and still subdued performances from his actors. Working with production designer Mark Digby, who gave us a true MetroCity One in Dredd,  they created a unique world that was both ours and alien at the same time. This movie lives up to its visual hype and is driven forward by those visuals which only get more surreal like watching a series of Salvador Dali paintings come to life.

The actors of course are fine, they couldn’t be anything else really. Portman carries the film on her more than capable shoulders as our lead character Lena. Jennifer Jason Leigh is positively subdued as Dr. Ventress. Swedish actress Tuva Novotny makes a surprising mark as she moves through the film as Cass Sheppard. My favourite Valkyrie, Tessa Thompson, delivers her own unique performance showing a range we didn’t get to see in Thor but is no less fascinating to watch as our physicist Josie Radek. They are all fine. The cast is small. The director is good with small casts. He excels at them. I question some of the character names, as the novels characters didn’t have them, to see if they are other sci fi references, such as Asajj Ventress (Star Wars) and me..I mean Commander Shepard (Mass Effect), but that isn’t a fault at all.

What is though I think, is the message of the movie. Science fiction should make you think. Should make you wonder. Should start conversation. While this film does make me want to talk about it, I am not sure how I feel about it or what to say specifically about it beyond the technical components above. Sure it is one of the most visually compelling sci fi movies in awhile, even Arrival was washed out to be nearly black and white at times; which I picked on then. There is contrast here between the outside world and what’s inside and how colour, light, and life interplay with their surroundings, but visuals cannot be everything. I used the Dali reference above intentionally, as the movie felt like I was watching a series of magnificently crafted paintings for two hours, with an occasional drop of dialogue to remind me this isn’t an art gallery. The movie kind of suffers for this as it’s pacing moves seemingly at a crawl so that you can enjoy and appreciate all that you see. There is a lot to appreciate, with creature and set designs unlike anything I’ve seen and ideas introduced that we have never quite seen like this. Another flaw comes in the sound design in act three. You shouldn’t typically notice how sound is done in a movie like this, but there’s a choice in the final act that ejected me from the moment rather than draw me in.

TL;DR?

Annihilation is a solid, technically well crafted film with every dollar spent on production design, sets, and creatures used to the best possible calibre; yet it somehow misses the mark for me.  I am not sure if I didn’t get the message they were trying to sell as this is science fiction – not horror, or they truly failed on delivery.  I really want to like this movie a lot more, but I feel that it trips over its own art and crashes through its delivery leaving me asking questions; but not the ones it wants me to.

Should I see it?

Well…maybe. I think there’s a lot here, but it is a very slow movie that doesn’t really nail the landing.

Would you see it again though?

Maybe at home with some friends this time to talk about it beyond the eye candy that is the design.

So you’re buying it?

The magic 8 ball says, most likely.

Anything else to share on this?

I think I am going to be in the minority on this one. I finished writing my review and broke one of my rules and started skimming other reviews online before publishing my own. I agree it is weird, surreal, again beautiful, but I am missing any exploration of humanity in this or our own world view. If anything I would say it’s a touch nihilistic if the message I did take from it is correct, but in no way did I find it scary even in it’s vast implications throughout.

So again I think I didn’t get what they were selling or others are reading more into this than I saw; which brings me back to the maybe go see it and me watching it again with friends for the discussion vs. a solo run.

Darke Reviews | It (2017)

It’s been 27 years since I read Stephen Kings IT. No joke. It was freshman year in high school and me and my friend Darrin were reading and sharing our King stories and favourites. I bet if/when he reads this post he will remember the days we both would go – “Late last night and the night before.” It’s also one of the few times I had read a book before the film, when we were unexpectedly graced with the TV Mini series in November 18, 1990. The mini series gave more than a few people coulrophobia (fear of clowns), but looking back its hard to see why when you remove the nostalgia glasses. Don’t get me wrong, I love the mini series but it doesn’t really hold up all that well across the board now as Nostalgia Critic pointed out deftly a few years ago. Parts yes were really well done, but very made for TV and very PG. Here we go with a theatrical release and an R Rating (I hope)

Should IT have stayed in hibernation?

So to be very clear I have little recollection of the book, aside from one or two things. This will be judged as the movie itself. I won’t be comparing it to the 1990 version either as these are incredibly separate beasts; which while there’s a nod or two here and there are structurally, tonally, and behaviorally different films. Make no mistake this is not the IT you grew up with. The beast evolved with the times.

Now as I understand it, considering I try to avoid insider info now, the core screenplay was by Cary Fukunaga, writer of Sin Nombre and Beasts of No Nation. It had additional work done by Chase Palmer (no relevant credits I could find) and Gary Dauberman (Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation). As I can’t remember the source material sufficiently I can’t speak to its adaptation. Things I do remember such as the house on Neibolt Street, made it into the film and were quite well done. What struck me most is how well they balanced the horror, the dialogue, and the humor in the film. There were times people laughed, people shrieked (yes shrieked), and even applauded during the 2 hour run time. I even triggered the applause during one scene; which moved like the wave in a stadium. The movie was resonating with people of all ages in the crowd from the teens to the elderly. I question the logic of the person who brought the 10 year old though. The writing was solid through and through with tension building, release, and even breaks to laugh at well timed and well placed humor. It is not flawless however, as there does seem to be some loss of fidelity to the Losers club. Mike, and Stanley don’t feel as fully formed as they could be. I think Mike suffers the most from this as some of his arc from the 90’s was moved to Ben. You do get a sense of who he is, but it isn’t remotely the same level as what Bill, Bev, or Ben get. You do get your Losers club, but they aren’t 100% realized.

That could potentially fall to material on the editing room floor or decisions made by director Andy Muschietti (Mama). This is one of the few failings of the film. It could be script, could be director, could be editors. Muschietti nailed it otherwise. His vision for the camera with director of photography Chung-hoon Chung (Old Boy – the original, The Handmaiden) were nothing less than inspired to me. Dutch angles used appropriately but not overused. All of the basic shot types are used with precision. Not once did I feel “oh this should be been done as an over the shoulder” or “too close for no reason. go to a wide here.” The blend of diagetic and non diagetic sounds, music used within the material the characters can hear vs music for the audience, worked well especially during the opening credits. What impressed me most is the methods in which tension was built. The jump scares are few and far between yet the movie twists that emotional rubber band to its breaking point a number of times. Those familiar with the previous work will expect beats that never come and get a handful that make you question how much they are changing. All of this to the movies credit.

None of it would work without the kids though. Jaden Lieberher (Book of Henry, Midnight Special) has a lot of weight on his 14 year old shoulders as Bill. He delivers. He has the chops to be the charismatic leader of the Losers, so desperately searching for his little brother when everyone else tells him no. Jeremy Ray Taylor (bit roles in Ant-Man and 42) is our new kid Ben. His fear of Henry, his isolation, and his feelings are shown well through action as much as dialogue. Sophia Lillis, as Beverly Marsh, turns it up to 11 in her performance. The 15 year old actress is both strong and vulnerable. Bev is the rock for the group and Lillis shows the range of the character well. Stranger Things alum Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler from ST) is our mouth Richie Tozier. This is a thousand times different than the Seth Green performance from 1990 and quite honestly superior in every way. Jack Dylan Grazer, another 14 year old, plays our Eddie Kaspbrak.  This kid has star power, quite possibly the “weakest” of the Losers, he doesnt let that stop him and its hard to turn your eyes to focus elsewhere when he speaks. Sadly, as mentioned before Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon) and Wyatt Olef (Stanley Uris) don’t get nearly enough to do. They sell their fear. They are part of the Losers no doubt. You just don’t have as strong as a sense of them due to the flaws above, but the actors did their absolute best.

On a more technical standpoint, the movie really nails the 1980’s in the vein of the aforementioned Stranger Things. Its the end of the 80’s but rather than overload us with toys, phrases, pop culture, and pure nostalgia of the time they use it as set dressing for atmosphere. There are little things here and there that hit those points, but they aren’t a focus and the movie is all the richer for it. I looked to my friend Tony who I saw it with tonight (thanks to his screener tickets) a few times and went “I remember doing that.” That’s how you hit 80’s. It was perfect. Additionally there’s a cute little time table through the film told via the marquee on the movie theatre. Not a spoiler, just if you want to know “specific dates” that’s how you can tell. Beyond the 80’s the movie needed to be tension filled through sets, lighting, and make up. It was. If anything the flaws that exist are minor. There’s incredible attention to detail on Pennywise…oh wait I didn’t mention him in the actors.

Bill Skarsgård has given our favourite clown new life. Having watched him in Atomic Blonde (twice now) I was surprised how much I lost him to the character. That is a very good sign. He does some interesting things with his voice, face, and body language that aid in making this Pennywise absolute nightmare fuel. I was asked if he was better than Curry. Short answer is yes. Long answer: Its a different character with a different movie that comes from the same source material.  The choices in the technicals surrounding him (Costume, Make up, FX) only add to make him one of the most terrifying characters I have seen in awhile.

TL:DR?

IT may be the scariest movie I have seen in a very long time. This is horror done right. This is King done right. This should be in the top 5 list of any King movie list. It ranks with Carrie, The Shining, and even Shawshank. While it isn’t a perfect movie, it is extraordinarily well made, trope avoiding, and drenched with atmosphere (and blood during one scene). It has gore, but doesn’t overdo it instead letting the starkness of it offset the performance by the kids. The Losers club are performed in their A game and feel totally natural.

IT comes with my highest recommendation and while summer 2017 may have been the most disappointing for Hollywood in 25 years – this movie is surely a sign of what can happen when you treat a property with respect. Wonder Woman, Logan both show this as well. I hope Hollywood takes note of what worked so well from casting, to direction, to script, to film style. This movie works.

Should you see it?

If you have a fear of clowns or horror movies in general? No. Otherwise – Yes

Do you plan to see it again?

Yes. Absolutely.

Buying it?

Without a doubt.

Ok, but did it scare you the Vampire Princess?

Yes. It’s a pleasant feeling I had long since forgotten in movies.

Parting thoughts?

The 90’s one will have a soft spot in my heart. This is just well done and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Wait….sequel?

*grin*

Darke Reviews | The Mummy (2017)

All please forgive me if you don’t get a full review tonight I am not in the right frame of mind. I am dealing with the loss of a fur-baby; so TL;DR only today.

Longer review pending – probably with spoilers – as I want to rip this movie apart. So people who enjoy me verbally (textually?) eviscerating movies you have something to look forward to.

The movie is bad. They made Tom Cruise not charming. The effects are “ok”. They have no idea on tone. Its edited badly.

It rips off of LifeForce AND American Werewolf in London simultaneously and not in good ways.

Do not see this.

See Wonder Woman again and again – or see the Brendan Frazier one.

Darke Reviews | Life (2017)

If you are not new to my site you know that I love good sci fi. If you are new to my site, you now know I love good Sci-Fi. If you want to make it horror sci-fi then you better hold to your science while telling me your fiction. I think this belief of mine comes from most horror sci-fi being relatively close in period to our own and with our own rules of science, biology, chemistry, and physics. If you want to violate these rules you need to establish you are acting outside of them early on or you risk losing me to wondering how within the confines of known science you are operating.

It’s why I buy phasers, lightsabers, xenomorphs, and flux capacitors. You laid forth rules. You have not violated them within your own fiction. We’re good. Tell me your rules, your world and I will board the suspension of disbelief train and ride it to the end. If you present me my world, my rules (as I understand them) you have established the protocols by which your science will be held standard. Violate them at your own risk or at least the risk of me ripping your movie apart.

So does Life need to find a way or is it worth exploring?

Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, LIFE is the story of scientists aboard the I.S.S. in a “near future” time that is otherwise undisclosed. During a mission in which samples are being brought back from Mars for study, they find proof of life. Maybe they wish they hadn’t.

Rheese and Wernick who worked on Zombieland and Deadpool together  would seem an odd choice for this movie as their comedy/action and comedy/horror don’t lend themselves to a tension based sci-fi thriller when you first think of them. Yet – somehow they did it. In the vein of Alien nearly 40 years ago they  did a well paced, no forced humor thriller.  The science is good, the fiction is good,  the thrills are solid enough; but within that something is missing. The characters themselves. You don’t get to know them as much so when the movie begins traditional Ten Little Indian’s as it needs to, you don’t feel it as deeply as you could.

Swedish director, Daniel Espinosa (Safehouse), shoots the movie rather well and he apparently knows how to deal with the limited space provided and uses that to add to the innate claustrophobia of having no where to run. Though, much like I feel about the script I don’t think he teases enough out of his actors to elevate the characters and really get their motivations – beyond the one who gets a bit of a monologue. It’s clear though he had a vision along with the writers and I feel that they executed the vision well enough but didn’t quite elevate it. More on that in the TL;DR.

From an acting perspective everyone is absolutely passable. Ryan Reynolds was well Ryan Reynolds in space, but he dialed himself back from an 11 to a 5 and the restraint was to his benefit. Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, The Wolverine, 47 Ronin) may not be able to turn out a bad performance if he tried. Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya makes a good mission commander despite this being her first American produced film. Ariyon Bakare, mostly a TV character actor, satisfies as our biologist. Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation) plays my favorite character, the CDC specialist; leaving us with Jake Gyllenhaal who is the only one who just has a weird read. Each of the others despite having limited dimension still come off as normal people, Jake’s character just comes off …odd. I don’t know if it is a specific affectation he was directed to do or choose to do but he just was…odd to me.

From an FX standpoint they are 90% solid. The creature is interesting in its design and it’s movements. The overall space scenes and movement through the zero-g environment is beginning to be mastered after films such as Gravity nailed it as well as they did. The best effect though is a subtle one involving one of the characters. While it was an attempt to give one of them more depth (it kinda failed) it did succeed in making you believe the visual trickery before your eyes without looking overt. I would guess it was a mixture of practical and CG and that is often a winning combination.

TL;DR?

Life is good. The movie that is. Maybe the cereal too. I think what frustrates me about it is it could have been more and I think it wanted to be. I just don’t think the director or the script knew how to take it up just one more notch from something good to something great. There’s half-hearted attempts to ask the deeper questions that could come from this, but it’s just that half-hearted. Effort was definitely put into the production; but the net result was a “Good”. I honestly believe this movie could have been great, but it just didn’t know how to get there.

One other thing in it’s favor – the trailer did it’s job and was cut very specifically and rather well.

Should you see it?

It’s not bad sci-fi. So if you enjoy a lil in the Sci-Fi Horror genre give it a go. I’ll be curious to what you think.

Would you see it again?

Matinee maybe? If someone else paid.

How about buying it?

…the magic 8 ball says undecided.

Last thoughts?

Life is a good movie in its genre, well above average but not quite making a mark. Effort was there and it shows and that alone gets merit. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it and if nothing else someone tried and succeeded at a good sci fi horror. There is a lot worse coming this year (*stares at Geostorm*) and I do believe it deserves to make a profit just so we keep getting good pictures in this genre. It just could have been better.

Darke Reviews | Kong: Skull Island (2017)

I had two movie experiences tonight. Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale and Kong: Skull Island. These experiences were diametrically opposed with SAO being with friends and an audience who was clapping, laughing, crying with the beats of the movie. I haven’t seen an audience as passionate about a film and reacting so strongly in many many years. I was among those feeling with the movie and cried quietly after my friends had to head home.

It’s been a long time since I remember seeing a movie that made me feel like that and with friends and fans who were as engaged. I miss it and I cherish tonight’s experience.

Then there is Skull Island. There were maybe 15 people in the theatre, but two men behind me who may or may not have snuck in, were quite obnoxious and very very drunk. Kept calling me bro. As I was not in the mood to be assaulted tonight I said nothing. Do I think it may cloud my review of the movie? Perhaps.

The real question is should Kong have stayed on the island?

First, let me make one thing very clear, this *is* in fact tied to the same universe as 2014 Godzilla movie. The studio in it’s…vain… attempt to mirror the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is trying to create one with it’s own properties (or Toho’s I guess?). This isn’t a spoiler as it actually has no bearing on the film, but the company Monarch from the first one is present here and it is no accident. There will be a roll over spoiler at the bottom though for those who want it.

The story credit goes to John Gatins (Flight, Real Steel, Need for Speed and Power Rangers later this month). Suffice to say his style of story is all over the place in his work history as much as it is in the movie. Though his story was adapted to screenplay by Derek Connolly (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World), Max Borenstein (Godzilla 2014), and Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Real Steel, Bourne Legacy). The people behind the pen and on the paper of this movie have left me a mixed bag of emotions as to how I feel about the work they produce individually and collectively – much like the movie. I feel that the people of the pen paid attention to the feedback from Godzilla being too slow, focusing too much on boring non dimensional characters, killing off your most interesting actor. I also believe that they overcompensated the other direction; but still never quite nailed the characters.

Just as I feared from the trailers the movie isn’t quite sure of the tone. It very obviously moved away from the sedate, dry, and washed out tones of Godzilla; but in it’s quest to be different didn’t stake a claim as to what it wanted to be. It knew it just HAD to be different than it’s predecessor so it tried everything! A bit of horror, bit of adventure, bit of action, bit of war, bit of comedy, and bit of Oh god look at the size of that thing – and little of it worked. I may have to send their agent a small booklet on the word subtlety and how to write  a script with it. None of the characters are particularly compelling and you spend the time wondering when most of them will be picked off by the denizens of the island. The amount of stupidity shown as nearly as big as Kong himself; while the broad strokes used to paint the near caricatures of human beings is wide enough to paint the deck of an aircraft carrier. You just won’t care, and the only reason you might is the raw charm of a handful of the actors.

Oh the actors. Hiddleston is doing his best to be the adventure movie lead despite the flaws in the script, directing, and just the movie itself. He tries and I care simply because he is Tom Hiddleston. Samuel L Jackson phones in a performance of Colonel Kurtz, I mean Preston Packard. Brie Larson does little, but tried to do more than look pretty. Not her fault either. More on that in a bit. John C Reilly is absolutely fine. He was not in full comedy mode, in fact he’s a touch tragic but due to the script and directing you don’t get that 100%.  There isn’t much else to mention here; which means I can begin the ritual execution.

What. Was. Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Thinking? Also what was the studio thinking? They want this to be a tentpole level feature that can help continue to drive interest in their plan for a Giant Monster Cinematic Universe, so lets hire the guy who did a few episodes of Funny or Die and some other comedy work. The direction in this movie is nearly as bad as the editing. I can think of nothing good to say here. The contrivances were god awful while the shot choices laughable in their forced attempt to be ‘epic’.  The pacing is all over the place, the characters have hints of being more and are flatter than the ground under a giant gorilla’s foot.

What does work are the visuals. Kong is amazing. The creatures are…ok, but Kong is amazing. There are fights with him, more than Godzilla offered and far more clear than the previous film. That is one of the movies few credits in which the fighting of Kong vs Monsters is very clear and easy to understand. I think they used music when they couldn’t figure out how to test the speakers or the dialogue may have been even worse.

TL;DR?

It’s not good. I am away from the experience and the movie just isn’t good. The visuals are good and they waste no time on the reveal of the big guy. So thats the positive column. It does try, and mostly succeed at giving us a King Kong story we haven’t seen before, but that isn’t much praise. The money shots of him standing and his size are there and worth it, but they do not carry a film.

Thats all I can say – I really believe it’s bad.

Should you see it?

If you are a Kong fan? Sure. Otherwise see Logan again or save the money.

What if I really must see it? I mean Hiddleston.

If you must, the 3D does add something. Mostly digital embers, but the depth of field is nice and the XD speakers were amazing in more than a few shots.

Are you sure the jerks that were behind you didn’t sway your opinion?

Yeah pretty sure. Its why i still write these vs impromptu videos.  It gives me time away to think. Honestly, the review is kinder than I thought it would be.

But Jess – it’s a giant monkey fighting weird reptiles movie. Isn’t it just good for popcorn?

Honestly. No, not really. Sure the big guy should be the focus, but the movie is just badly done.

Anything else?

Next week is Beauty and the Beast and The Belko Experiment, but I will be traveling for work so may not get to see B&B before Friday.

 

 

Rollover begins

Ok if you do see it stay for the end credits. I noticed it said “Rodan”, “Mothra”, “King Ghidorah”  are trademarks of Toho. Then we get an end credit scene where they absolutely set up King of the Monsters.

 

Rollover Ends